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Matt Welch @MattWelch
, 26 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
I have written many critical things over the years about @SenJohnMcCain; you can easily find them. But not in this thread. Instead, I wanted to share a few observations of possible interest that I’ve accumulated over the years following this fascinating American character. 1/
First, politician books are among the most wretched, soul-killing genres in publishing. But McCain, with able help from alter-ego @ MarkSalter55, has written not one but two books I’d recommend to anyone: Faith of My Fathers and Worth the Fighting For.…
In those & elsewhere you will find a sense of basic patriotic decency toward his fellow Americans (and aspirational Americans), plus a bracing hostility toward those who stereotype, mock, or inflict punishment on those from traditionally disfavored minority communities.
“American nationalism isn’t the same as in other countries. It isn’t nativist or imperial or xenophobic, or it shouldn’t be. Those attachments belong with other tired dogmas...consigned to the ash heap of history. We live in a land made from ideals, not blood and soil.”--new book
“The great majority of unauthorized immigrants came here to find work & raise their families, like most immigrants have throughout our history. They are not the rapists, killers, and drug dealers of fevered imaginations on the Right. They’re not the cause of the opioid epidemic.”
“It’s the true believers who fear America is contaminated by the customs of non-European immigrants who make this moment so fraught. They believe the President shares their prejudice, and has promised to enact it into law.”
I don’t look for politicians to re-moralize the country or whatever damn fool idea. But I think it’s preferable when they behave decently, and not deliberately stoke & profit from collectivist demonization. This clip feels like from another planet:
McCain’s distaste for the conservative-populist media/entertainment industry is boundless, occasionally funny, foundationally elitist, and contains more than a little truth:…
Every politician lies & BS’es, and John McCain is a politician. But even if the straight talk was overhyped, the fact that he remained haunted by his own shortcomings, even wallowing in them confessionally, is much preferable comportmentally IMO to gleeful liars who just DGAF.
You can psshaw his sense of honor, and make (good!) arguments that it led him to bad policy places. But it has spurred some righteous & welcome condemnations from time to time.…
Also: Despite my years of criticism, I have long been struck by how many people in his innermost circle are genuinely friendly to me. The ethos he has built around himself clearly involves a respect for frank give-and-take, rather than tribal loyalty. That's rare.
My book was due on July 15, 2007. On July 10, he fired like half his campaign, and people thought he was toast. I didn’t really want to write it if he wasn’t a plausible presidential candidate. Who talked me over the finish line? A campaign staffer. Even though he disagreed w/me.
My policy *agreements* with the man? Well, there haven’t been a lot. But in the spirit of this particular thread (which will provoke a glorious amount of antiwarsplaining to the guy who LITERALLY WROTE THE BOOK), here are a few.
It is not an easy to thing to argue during emotional national moments involving war that the government should use *less* force, yet here McCain was right after Osama bin Laden’s killing, saying torture is still wrong, people:…
From his latest book: “In truth, most of the CIA’s claims that abusive interrogations of detainees had produced vital leads to help locate bin Laden were exaggerated, misleading, and in some cases, complete bullshit.”
And it’s not just torture: As I wrote in this 2008 column making the libertarian case for him (no really, I did!) McCain is more right than current GOP/Dem leadership on trade, entitlements, and more:…
And: People over the years have enjoyed casting aspersions on McCain’s POW record from the left (…,…), right, and whatever (…). In turn, I have enjoyed calling them factual and moral idiots…
Part of the stupidity of our age is rejecting the possibility of good attributes & deeds among people we politically hate. Don’t say George W. Bush paints well because he’s a WARMONGER! Don’t say Teddy Kennedy had the best staff on Capitol Hill because CHAPPAQUIDDICK!
A corollary stupidity is whining when a famous person dies or is dying that you somehow aren’t “allowed” to point out his/her faults. (Said whining is done in public, and often shared widely on Twitter.) Doowutchyalike, kids!
I’m collecting the positive in this thread because it’s good exercise, because I feel for my pals in AZ, because there’s public interest at the moment & because some specifics are too minor to be of interest in any other time/space.
There will be time for capital-A Assessments. Mine—like his own!—will include plenty of critical examination.…
In fact, here are a couple of such exercises from May:……
But since I’m already seeing both brave poo-flinging exercises and gushmouthy establishment hagiographies, here’s my basic plea: All truly great characters, whether artists, politicians, or baseball managers, are complex, flawed individuals, containing multitudes.
Even if you are in the 100%-love or 100%-hate camps, the complexifying aspects makes your argument *more*, not less, compelling. That is, if your argument is worth a got-damn to begin with. Knowing why your enemy is attractive & your ally ugly has practical & intellectual value.
Anyway, speaking of a different planet, here’s John McCain at the Al Smith dinner in 2008:

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