Senator John McCain is indeed a war hero, but as was made evident this past week, that does not equate to being an example of what true conservatism is.
President Trump and Sen. McCain (R – AZ) sparred in the Republican Presidential primaries and McCain hasn’t forgotten Trump’s comments that being a prisoner of war is not enough to make one a hero. The senator, while being honored with the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal, blasted Trump’s international and national policies by referring to what he called a “half-baked, spurious nationalism”.
McCain’s remarks came after he was presented the prestigious medal by former Vice President Joe Biden. The Arizona Republican was being honored for his “lifetime of sacrifice and service” to the United States.
While the honor is certainly deserved, we cannot make the mistake of conflating personal heroism with ideological purity. Past recipients of the Liberty Medal include the Dalai Lama, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Hillary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, and CNN International.
McCain said in the speech, “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Though he didn’t name President Trump, it was obvious who McCain was aiming his remarks at.
White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway disputed McCain’s assessment on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, saying:
“Well, I just don’t see that in the president’s agenda or in his philosophy. His moorings are conservative, and he is governing as a center-right president who believes that we pay too much in taxes, that we’re over-regulated, and that we have not taken terrorists seriously … We’ve not even been willing to call them terrorists for the last however many years. This country is safer and more prosperous under President Donald Trump.”
Conway added that she does not see any of the “spurious nationalism” in President Trump that McCain condemned in his acceptance speech. She expressed optimism that the two men might soon find themselves on the same legislative page.
Nothing revealed the senator’s neo-con establishment leanings more than his dramatic thumbs down vote a few months ago on the Republican healthcare plan that would have replaced Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
When Trump was asked at that time about McCain’s no vote, he responded, “Sen. McCain, you mean the one who voted against Obamacare? You mean Sen. McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?”
The media loves McCain. This is not because he’s a traditional conservative, or even because he’s a neoconservative – but because he stands in the way of Trump’s agenda.
This division might cause many Republican voters to ask: why are two members of the same party so viciously locked in opposition with one another? The answer lies in the heart of McCain’s dated philosophy.
Neoconservatism was born in the 1970s when a group of Democrats abandoned their party and declared themselves newly minted Republicans. Led by Irving Kristol, the self-proclaimed “godfather” of the movement, neocons follow his lead in calling for “a conservative welfare state.”
Not surprisingly, it was neocons that did everything they could to keep Ronald Reagan from being the Republican nominee for president in 1980.
This doesn’t mean that McCain never votes conservative. In fact, he has generally voted conservative on important issues as evidenced by the American Conservative Union scorecards from 1987 to 2015. In an average year, McCain had a conservative score of 81. That’s only slightly less than the median Republican senator’s score of 87. Many of McCain’s policy positions place him squarely within the mainstream of the Republican Party. He is mildly pro-gun right, anti-abortion, and very hawkish on foreign affairs.
In spite of that record, McCain has shown a definite leaning to the left over the course of his long tenure in the Senate. From 1987 to 1996, the senator’s voting record was one of a down the line conservative, but since that time he has been much harder to categorize.
McCain’s shift to center-left came as he was gearing up for his first presidential run in 2000, when his “maverick” storylines came into focus. The Senator is a war hero and has generally voted with his party. His recent stands or lack of them, however, have brought into focus that his last twenty years in the Senate have been a long, slow limp to the left.
~ Conservative Zone