In the wee hours of Friday morning, John McCain finally had the big Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment he’s been compulsively flirting with—and then, in the crunch, shying away from—ever since he came to the United States Senate 30 years ago. McCain knew it, too: “Wait for the show,” he told reporters pressing him Thursday night on which way he’d vote as Mitch McConnell’s last-ditch attempt to pass even a skeletal version of repealing Obamacare wended its way to a climax.
Then he cast the deciding vote that doomed it, joined by just two other Republicans (Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski) whose “Nays” would otherwise have led to a tie-breaking vote in the bill’s favor by Vice President Mike Pence. Among other things, that cheated Pence of the big Mr. Magoo Goes to Washington moment he was undoubtedly savoring in his God-soaked, gynophobic, silvery little mind.
The moment John McCain voted 👎 pic.twitter.com/ehivwkJVd4— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) July 28, 2017
Before we get too high on dutifully smooching the most kissed ass in modern American politics, however, something we shouldn’t overlook in all this hurly-burly was that McCain’s grandstand play for entering the history books as a hero and not a goat was only made possible by Collins and Murkowski’s staunchness. Unlike him, they’ve got their futures in the GOP caucus to consider. That won’t be an enjoyable prospect if the Tweeter-in-Chief goes on the warpath against them and fantasy Trump blood starts leaking out of their wherevers on cue.
McCain, on the other hand, doesn’t need to give two hoots about provoking anyone’s enmity except the Grim Reaper’s. Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer only two weeks ago, he’s now fighting the kind of courageous battle—as people always term them, because there are no cowards in cancer wards—whose outcome is foreordained. Even though Collins and Murkowski may both top McCain in political gutsiness, they can’t compete with him as drama.
Does he have a flair for it, or what? This season-finale—if not series-finale—episode of The Confusing But Rugged Adventures of John McCain got underway when he postponed his hospital treatment to fly back to Washington on Tuesday for the first of multiple votes on the Senate’s hideously botched, constantly mutating AHCA bill. When he voted in favor of allowing debate to proceed, the Interwebs’ libtards went for him hammer and tongs.
Allowing the AHCA to come up for a vote might simply reflect McCain’s respect for procedure.
Because spotting ironies the size of a barn door is something of a libtard specialty, they jeered above all at the spectacle of a man who has enjoyed free government-sponsored health care since the day he was born depriving millions of Americans of affordable health insurance. It didn’t seem to occur to them that a procedural vote is only a curtain-raiser and not necessarily predictive of the final tally on the bill in question. Or, in this case, bills, since McConnell kept swapping in new, from-hunger alternatives in a desperate effort to find one that could get 50 votes.
We don’t claim our crystal ball is more reliable than anyone else’s, but we did have a hunch the attacks on McCain’s cravenness might be a mite premature. Sure, there was a pretty good chance he’d meekly do the party’s bidding once push came to shove. That’s because he often has before, usually after putting up a show of defiance to protect his rep as a principled maverick. We all know he cherishes that reputation every bit as much as he hates having to live up to it.
All the same, we wondered whether allowing the AHCA to come up for a vote might simply reflect McCain’s respect for procedure, no matter how mottled his actual record as a defender of Senate traditions is. (Most notoriously, his proclaimed veneration of them didn’t stop him from supporting the “nuclear option” that got Neil Gorsuch confirmed on a simple majority vote, even as he warned his colleagues they were setting a dangerous precedent.) And he might also have understood that McConnell ultimately cared more about bringing the bill to a vote (at least Mitch could say he’d tried, right?) than he did about the result, because repeal-and-replace has turned into such an albatross for the GOP that pretty much everyone except the House crazies just wants to put it behind them by now.
The odds are that we’ll never know the full story of what motivated him to just say no. Pure pique at the abuse he got for his initial vote in favor of debate—Jesus, does being an 80-year-old war hero with brain cancer give anyone immunity from being insulted anymore?—may have played a part, too. But the bottom line is that he just guaranteed he’ll be remembered as precisely the valiant, stubborn, unswayable fellow he’s always insisted he is, no matter how seldom the legislative evidence has borne him out.
In our book, nothing will ever quite make up for the poison McCain legitimized in American political life by choosing Sarah Palin as his 2008 running mate, turning her into the crucial John the Baptist to Trump’s malignant messiah. But if you ask us, this does help redress the balance, just the same.