Tuesday, July 25, 2017

John McCain's Speech Was a Fraud

It takes a lot to make the single worst speech of 2017. It takes a special lot to make that speech just a few hours after Donald Trump's furious rant about everything under the Sun to poor innocent Boy Scouts. No, the worst speech of 2017 needs to actually in some way disappoint. Nobody expects anything from the president anymore. It should come from a voice that has earned respect, that has actual weight behind it. That way the utter hypocrisy and fraudulence of the speech can have its true weight crushed down upon you.

Senator John McCain today has made the Worst Speech of 2017. It is a final stain on a storied career of heroism and national service from a man I honestly respect*. At a key moment in American politics, boosted by the drama of a cancer diagnosis, McCain had the eyes and ears of the nation. This was his time to make his legacy. And instead of doing that, he made a cowardly, nonsensical argument full of false equivalences. His words were the literal opposite of his actions. It proved in the end that John McCain only wanted to appear to be a "Maverick". He never would actually be one.

It's so easy to complain about "partisanship" in Washington. Hell, I'll do it now: "there is too much partisanship in Washington". But I'm not in Washington. Nothing I do or say makes any difference in the end so saying it is easy. I wish that the Democrats and Republicans would stop screaming at each other and honestly try to work through a solution on healthcare. But that's an empty wish. I'm not actually doing anything. It's as empty as wishing for "world peace" or "ending racism". Sure it sounds nice. But without changing yourself and working towards those goals, it's all bullshit. Because to end partisanship takes bravery, self-reflection, and a willingness to admit one is wrong. Which are qualities John McCain said he had today, but did not.

Much of McCain's speech was a plea to return to "regular order" after the Republican healthcare bill was very irregular order. After years of GOP whining that Obamacare was forced through in various "cheating" ways, the Republicans then used every one of those same cheats. And when all that failed, they came up with new ones. John McCain regretted all this ugly underhandedness. Then he supported it by voting for the bill to proceed anyway.

Republicans say Obamacare was drafted in secret, wasn't given enough public discussion, and shouldn't have been passed with Reconciliation. Most of that is wrong, since Obamacare spent months in brutal debate - I remember all of it and so do you. Meanwhile the Republican bill was drafted in secret (twice), has had no public discussion of any kind in either house of Congress, and will use that very parliamentarian trick to pass. The complaint is that these bills are too important to pass wit just one wing, you need a bipartisan effort. So the Republicans have gone ahead and decided to keep the Democrats out of the discussion entirely. This also comes a year after we had a short-staffed Supreme Court for no reason other than the Republicans not liking Barack Obama.

Not to mention the small detail that nobody even knows what bill they just voted on. This is the most remarkable part of the story. The current bill in front of the Senate is the one the House passed months ago, the one that these Senators claimed to hate. With the amendments process this bill could ultimately be anything. It could be RyanCare, it could be a full repeal, it could even be Single Payor by the end. How is voting blindly for the Mystery Box responsible governance?

McCain stood by his party on every step despite these "irregularities". He wants you to know he feels bad about it.

What's worse is the slimy false equivalence excuses hidden all throughout the senator's statements. McCain's speech reads like he opposes what the Republican are doing, but really he's justifying it all. "The administration and congressional Democrats shouldn't have forced through congress without any opposition or support a social economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn't do the same with ours." Only you are doing the same with yours. If McCain wanted to send a message that he was against it, he just said the exact opposite with his vote.

Secretly all this is a little message: "the Democrats cheated first, so it's our turn". He's excusing himself and his colleagues for their actions, because "both sides are wrong". Even if that were true, even if Democrats were wrong in 2009 and 2010, you're wrong right now. You had your chance to stop this brinkmanship, Senator. You did not take it.

In fact, McCain makes direct falsehoods. For example, he claims "my dear friends on the other side of the aisle didn't allow" hearings on Obamacare. The Democrats allowed hours of hearings and hundreds of amendments in a desperate attempt to get Republicans to sign on to Obamacare. They tried literally everything to make their bill bipartisan. There has been no such attempt or even illusion of a good faith effort on the part of John McCain's party.

McCain goes on with more empty pleas. "Let's see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on the other side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today." That sounds great, doesn't it? Clearly the "Maverick" can reach across the aisle and save us!

Only John McCain has no such "compromises". This was his moment to offer them. For a speech largely about healthcare reform, there is no substance here of what John McCain wants out of his healthcare bill. In fact, the only policy statement here is a vague opposition to Donald Trump's Mexican wall. (At least he's against that.) I don't need McCain to lay down a complicated plan and recite hours and hours of regulations, but could he at least tell us what he wants? How many uninsured is he willing to accept? What part of Obamacare is unacceptable to him? Which taxes need to go? What needs fixing? None of that is here.

This has been the problem with the GOP for almost a decade now. This is why the Republican bills all year have been disasters. That includes the one Senator McCain just voted to get closer to becoming law. Ironically he did so right after stepping out of a hospital full of patients vulnerable to this kind of bad government.

Because ultimately it's all shell-game. The Republican plan on healthcare is "not Obamacare". It doesn't matter what that "not Obamacare" is, it never has. Donald Trump isn't the only one without a plan - none of them have a plan. If you believe in free market solutions, you should be all for the Affordable Care Act. It's a great way to shore up the private insurance market. If you don't like that solution, come up with something else. Only they never have. No Republican has a better plan than Obamacare, and that includes John McCain.

Real heroism would have been admitting that his party has failed. And that he's failed too. Real heroism would have cut through all the nonsense, to say "let's stop this". Stop creating crises for bills that make America worse. Stop splitting our nation in half for votes. And be the greater men that this country needs right now. That's what you were elected for, that's the man you claim to be, Senator McCain.

Only you want not that greater man. At a key moment when you face your own mortality, you've picked an easy route: blame everybody else for what went wrong. Everybody was wrong except for John McCain. The tragedy of this is that McCain has been a great American in the past. He is still a hero. But he was not a hero today.

John McCain was a fraud.

* I like McCain. I really do. If I could any result in American history, I would love to change the Republican primaries of 2000 and let John McCain be president in 2000. He would have been the leader we needed in the War on Terror. Then again, there's a lot I am disappointed about in Senator McCain's career.

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