The final days of American decency

From the sound of things, these are the final days for John McCain, one of the more intriguing men in American history whose life will be difficult to chronicle because it’s difficult to assess his political years without being accused of throwing shade on his years as a warrior in Vietnam.

McCain, who has a brain tumor, often stopped short of voting consistent with his words, words that earned him “maverick” status. There are, of course, exceptions.

That’s all fair game for analysis in the coming days, but there is, nonetheless, a sense that McCain’s death is also metaphorical; that — flawed and all — an element of decency in American politics will finally die with him.

The White House offered no assurance otherwise yesterday when one of its lemmings mocked McCain. Nor did a broadcast on FoxNews when a former Air Force chief of staff said torture worked on McCain when he was a POW in Vietnam, a claim so despicable that even FoxNews apologized for its indecent moment of the day.

One wonders what Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee would think about all of this. She’s the McCain backer who stood during a rally at Lakeville South High School in 2008 and declared his opponent — Barack Obama — “an Arab.”

Say what you want about John McCain, but you’ll likely not see a politician stand against such indecency again.

“All this discussion is coming from what I call a ‘hate potluck’ — people who always come together and say, ‘Hey, what hate do you have?’ ‘I have some hate for Jewish,’ ‘I have some hate for Muslims,'” Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center Imam Mohamed Omar told MPR News’ Laura Yuen in her Friday story about the reaction when a Libertarian GOP group chose the mosque as the site for their convention. “If you keep saying, ‘I don’t hate anybody,’ then you’re [seen as] naive, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

McCain lost his election in 2008. He’s losing his fight with his brain tumor. He lost his mission to prevent America from being a melting pot of indecency.

  • MrE85

    “He lost his mission to prevent America from being a melting pot of indecency.”

    Perhaps, but he wasn’t solely responsible for that mission. Plenty of blame to go around.

  • Mike
    • Postal Customer

      C’mon man, can’t you just play along with the emperor’s new clothes of decency, and let bygones be bygones? Those victims of US belligerence, supported by Senator McCain, are “ancient history.”

  • Chris

    “Say what you want about John McCain, but you’ll likely not see a politician stand against such indecency again.”

    I think you mean “republican politician”. Let’s not both-sides this and say “politicians” have lost decency, when the balance of the loss is so far greater on one side than the other.

    • BJ

      It’s pretty much both sides. The one in power right now is just getting more press.

      • Chris

        Why don’t you ask cocaine Mitch if Merrick Garland agrees with you.

        • BJ

          >cocaine Mitch

          Nothing to see here, just call a senator a name in the middle of a conversation about indecency.

          • Chris

            An ironic example referencing the kind of nuts you see in republican primaries for which no equivalance can be found on the other side. And also how the GOP stole a supreme court seat, which wasn’t decent. Both sides-ism gives shelter to worst of the GOP.

          • John Climber

            You are absolutely wrong that there is no equivalence for nuttiness on the Left. Spend some time Googling some conspiracy theories (9/11, Pizzagate, etc.) and you will find plenty of Democratic supporters for these things. But here’s an example, from Politico in 2011. From a Scripps Howard poll:

            “‘How likely is it that people in the federal government either
            assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?’ the poll asked.

            A full 22.6% of Democrats said it was ‘very likely.’ Another 28.2% called it ‘somewhat likely.’

            That is: More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks.”

          • RBHolb

            Oh, those bad, bad Democrats. Where to begin?

            1. “Pizzagate” is a right wing thing. Like travelgate, Vince Foster, the Mena Airport, etc., it’s an anti-Clinton meme.

            2. Most of the “more than half” you point to so triumphantly said that it was “somewhat likely.” That is a long way from saying “more than half of Democrats . . . said they believed Bush was complicit . . .”

            3. Just for comparison’s sake, according to another “neutral survey,” only 26% of Republicans agreed with the statement that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Forty-one percent disagreed, and the remainder were not sure. By the way, this survey was taken in 2016.

            4. How many of those who espouse nutty conspiracy theories are in positions of influence? A certain figure who now occupies the White House (when he isn’t playing golf) got a lot of traction from repeating the birther lies. How many 9/11 “troofers” are in Congress?

          • John Climber

            The question here is about decency of character, and as you yourself imply, a person’s beliefs have something to do with that. It is an illusion to think that your side, or one side only, has a monopoly on that.

            1. New York Magazine found that 24% of Democrats think that Pizzagate is “definitely” or “probably” true.

            2. You just don’t know how to interpret statistics. If over 50% of Democrats believe that Bush somehow knew and didn’t do anything, that does make him complicit.

            3&4. I actually agree with you about how repugnant Trump is and Birther-beliefs are, but that’s not my point here.

          • RBHolb

            My point here is merely that the more repugnant (as you put it) beliefs have gained more traction on the right, and those who espouse them are very much within the mainstream of conservative politics. While many people on the left holdnutty conspiracy beliefs, their influence is far, far less than their counterparts on the right.

            To take one example: conspiracy theorist Dennis Kucinich was pretty much kicked to the curb in the primary by Ohio Democrats. “Both sides do it” provides cover and some comfort, but it is pretty much a deflection from reality to rely on it too heavily.

          • Jeff

            I thought this was interesting so I researched it some. Politico is the only news source (out of 10 or so that I found) that quotes the survey and breaks this down to Democrats. I can’t find anything in the orignial https://web.archive.org/web/20060805052538/http://www.scrippsnews.com/911poll that mentions political party. I don’t see that the Politico article is disputed, but I also couldn’t find evidence they are representing the survey accurately.

          • John Climber

            So in other words, as much as you want it to be false, you can’t find evidence that it is?

          • Jeff

            I can’t find any evidence that it’s true either. The link in the Politico article is dead. A search only found the link I cited which says noting about political party. It says random citizens. As I said nobody else reports the survey was by political party.

            Here’s the Politico link BTW: https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2011/04/more-than-half-of-democrats-believed-bush-knew-035224

          • RBHolb

            The burden of proof is on the person who claims it is true. Do you have a link?

          • Jeff

            Hey found this: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/bush_administration/22_believe_bush_knew_about_9_11_attacks_in_advance

            In a 2007 Rasmussen poll 35% of Democrats believe Bush knew of the attacks in advance with 26% not sure. So I accept your point that most Democrats are conspiracy nuts or at best agnostic. Personally I don’t know of any, but maybe it’s not spoken in polite company.

          • Postal Customer

            You are aware that it was Don Blankenship who made that cocaine reference . . . ?

          • BJ

            But repeated in this thread on decency. It’s fine.

            The left has been throwing shade at the right for years, it goes both ways.

            My favorite was Garrison Keillor calling the President, President George W Bush, “the current occupant” it was such a petty and classes act of self indulgence it made me sick. And I really disliked Bush.

            I’ve been to enough fundraisers and party events to know these things are said by every party by Elected Officials and the Political class. Both sides, all sides, sideways.

    • Maybe. Show me which Democrats have stood against a popular position of their base in a campaign as an example.

      • MrE85
        • I would say the vote against the Iraq war in no way ran counter to Wellstone’s base.

          Perhaps more in the category is his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act. But he ran on saying that was a bad vote, so… no.

          And, of course, Wellstone was long dead by the time McCain’s rebuke was made. Still, there remains a lesson in the relationship between him and Jesse Helms. Ignored. but still a lesson. I doubt either base would allow such a thing in these times.

        • Jack

          I really miss Paul. He stood up for the folks.

          • MrE85

            A lot of people do, on both sides of the divide.

      • Chris

        That’s a good one. I think the fact that their base doesn’t hold birther muslim conspiracy theories that they need to stand up against is kind of a catch 22 when that is the proof you want. The popular base positions of democrats are things like, raise minimum wage, get health care for everyone, don’t invade countries like Iraq for no reason, the rich don’t need a tax cut, college should be more affordable… you know not the kind of stuff that needs to be stood up against.

        • Rob

          Well said!

        • BJ

          >don’t invade countries like Iraq for no reason,

          How many Democrats voted for Iraq war, 29 of 50

          Sens. Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Biden (D-DE), Breaux (D-LA), Cantwell (D-WA), Carnahan (D-MO), Carper (D-DE), Cleland (D-GA), Clinton (D-NY), Daschle (D-SD), Dodd (D-CT), Dorgan (D-ND), Edwards (D-NC), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Hollings (D-SC), Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (D-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), Miller (D-GA), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Schumer (D-NY) and Torricelli (D-NJ)

          • Chris

            I guess that proves my point if 21 democrats stood up against a popular opinion. Thanks.

          • Jim in RF

            Yep. And its these sort of principled, thoughtful votes that allows them to keep their integrity even at the expense of success in elections. For the Repubs its just get in line or get out of here.

      • Postal Customer

        That misses even your own point. You talked about decency, not “standing against a popular position,” which is different than decency.

        Barack Obama is profoundly decent. He’s not ancient history.

        • Politically, he’s the very definition of ancient history.

          Sure, standing against the indecent is decency. That was a brave thing McCain did in’08. The easy thing would’ve been to cave rather than lead despite the cost. A parallel for Democrats might’ve been campaigning in 2016 to keep people’s health care.

      • Sonny T

        Through several election cycles MN state senator John Marty has been consistent in his opposition to Obamacare. He supports single payer.

  • Gary F

    The power of being in the US Senate must be great. If I were 80 and had brain cancer, I would have stepped down and spent more time with my wife and grand kids instead of playing in that sh_t show called the US Senate. Thanks for your service.

    • Jim in RF

      I would have too. I know the money’s good and all, but these are really rich guys anyway, for the most part. Apart from the horrible illness, I can’t imagine it being very enjoyable. I spent 4 years as a county commissioner and deciding not to run the 3rd time was very easy.

      • Gary F

        Being a US Senator is a lot of work. You miss more than a few wedding anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, basketball games, school concerts, first communions etc. By the time you are 80 and have served that many terms, go home and spend time with your family.

    • Postal Customer

      Exactly right. It’s not about service, it’s about power, and keeping that power. Once you reach the senate, it’s pretty tough to get rid of you. Most folks don’t willingly give it up.

  • Guest

    As the ONLY Senator or Washington DC politician to really know what torture feels like, I wish his advice against opening the world door to torturing our guys would have been heeded.

    “If you want a definition of torture, don’t ask a lawyer, ask the guy on the rack”

  • Rob

    Sadly, I think that McCain’s epitaph will read: “Too often, his deeds didn’t match his creeds.” And let’s hope Sarah Palin isn’t tapped to read the eulogy.

    • Kellpa07

      That could be the epitaph of any human being.

      • Rob

        He was an elected member of government. I’d argue that there’s more of an onus for consistency between deed and creed when serving in such a capacity. Your mileage may vary.

  • Pete

    While I think he was a decent man and a good senator, a lot of where we are today falls at his feet for allowing Sarah Palin to be his running mate. That was the first real national platform the tea party had, and the current Republican party can be traced directly back to this event.

  • lindblomeagles

    America lost its decency when McCain lost the election in 2008. Just review all those racist comments describing Barack Obama after the 2008 election. Better yet, add up all these incidents with police since 2008, or the mass murder gun violence since then. Still not convinced? The man in the White House famously labeled Mexicans drug dealers and rapists in 2015, then, doubled down on that phrase THIS YEAR when bringing back his intention to build a wall. How bout the march in Charlottesville in 2017? We witnessed, with our own eyes, a well respected journalist, Matt Lauer, admit to sexually harassing coworkers behind the scenes, and now are learning about Trump’s cover-up of an affair he had with porn actress Stormy Daniels. We haven’t seen decency in the past decade. And by the look of things today, it isn’t coming back anytime soon. Could our Rome finally be on the verge of decline?

    • seedhub

      “a well respected journalist, Matt Lauer”

      Give me a minute.

    • Rob

      Some individuals will always be more decent than others, but I’d argue that America wasn’t founded on decency, and has never been anywhere near what can be described as essentially decent.

      So decency wasn’t something we had until just recently, only to be lost because a given politician is disappearing from the scene.

    • crystals

      //America lost its decency when McCain lost the election in 2008.

      I’ll give you that’s perhaps when a lot of white Americans realized that America maybe wasn’t as decent to people of color as they thought she was. I think it’s a stretch to say that we were actually decent, especially to the marginalized among us, before then. It just wasn’t as visible as it is now.

  • AmiSchwab

    america lost/is losing it’s decency is related to the rise of the “christian” right pushing their perverted morals on everyone