Pixel Tracker

Friday, November 16 , 2018, 3:44 pm | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: Unlike Other ‘Leaders,’ John McCain Is a Patriot and a Hero

In this unheroic era when prominent American males prove their abiding patriotism by prominently displaying an American flag pin in the lapel of their suit jacket, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remains seriously out of step.

McCain has never been a flag waver. With the steady devotion of a lifetime of service, he has instead chosen to defend what our flag stands for.

Nowhere has that been clearer than in the continuing political debate over whether the United States should use torture to extract information from captured terrorists.

Major national leaders, including former Vice President Dick Cheney (who received five student draft deferments to avoid going to Vietnam and later said, “I had other priorities in the ’​60s than military service”) and President Donald Trump (for whom avoiding sexually transmitted diseases in New York during his draft-eligible years was his “personal Vietnam” and who once said, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse”), don’t shrink from the challenge of defending Americans’ license to torture.

Forget that the United States Senate ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the binding U.N. Convention Against Torture, which outlawed cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners.

And who was the president who urged the Senate “to demonstrate unequivocally our desire to bring an end to the abhorrent practice of torture”? Ronald Reagan, that’s who.

John McCain, patriot, is the only national candidate of either major party to ever make his all-out opposition to torture a signature plank in his presidential platform: “The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don’t deserve our sympathy. But this isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies, and we can never, never allow our enemies to take those values away.”

With the grave diagnosis from McCain’s doctors, this could be the right time to ask ourselves: Is the patriot no longer that admirable citizen who puts the common good ahead of his personal comfort or profit, who sacrifices herself for the safety of the beloved nation?

In 2017, that definition of patriotism seems both dated and naive. Today’s shrunken patriotism is increasingly the province of the belligerent talk show host or the combative armchair commando who — at a safe distance, with no personal or family skin in the game and while not making any personal sacrifice — endorses a get-tough policy using U.S. military power and people.

To such hypocrisy, McCain has spoken: “All wars are awful. ... Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured by war, it is the loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the cruel and merciless reality of war.”

For 5½ years as a prisoner of war, McCain endured merciless cruelty. His North Vietnamese torturers broke his bones and his teeth, but not his spirit. He came home to fearlessly fight big money in American politics, big tobacco in Washington and presidents of both parties.

McCain is not a plaster saint; he is prickly and can be short-tempered. But he has shown us time and again what it means to be an American patriot. People from almost everywhere — not the Kremlin, we can be sure — are today praying for his health.

Charles de Gaulle is said to have noted that the cemeteries of Europe are full of indispensable men. John McCain may not be indispensable, but he is irreplaceable.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >