The single most interesting thing John McCain has done in the last three or so decades is beat a guy named Richard Kimball in his first Senate election in 1987. Triumphing over someone with the same name as Harrison Ford's extremely badass character in the The Fugitive is sort of cool, right, even if it's not spelled the same?
Otherwise, his tenure in the Senate has been a long series of contributions to the turbid ebb and flow of human misery — mostly drops, but a handful of big splashes — from his sordid involvement with Charles Keating of Savings and Loan fame until Monday night, when he seized upon what should have been a very cursory rah-rah patriotic sort of speech at the U.S. Naval Academy to remind us what a tirelessly self-satisfied bore he is.
If his remarks before our sailors are to be believed, the gravest threat facing the United States is not nuclear war or Islamic terrorism or even opioid addiction but credulity. "We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories," he intoned with his practiced faux-solemnity.
Please, senator, tell us all about what it's like to be "asleep in our echo chambers, where our views are always affirmed and information that contradicts them is always fake." Given your immediate ungrounded insistence in 2003 that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was "a clear and present danger to the United States of America," your preposterous insistence that our soldiers would be greeted as liberators by the majority of the Iraqi people, your calm, indeed almost biweekly assertions that Iran was one 30-second timeout away from acquiring a massive nuclear arsenal and blowing us all to pieces unless we invaded first, your equally gullible support for turning Libya into a pile of rubble on the assumption that anarchy and starvation are the best pathways to liberal democracy, your relentless insinuations that everyone who disagreed with you about these complicated questions was some kind of pinko traitor, I think it's fair to say that you're something of an expert on the subject on what it's like to inhabit a universe in which your own omni-directionally hawkish instincts are always conveniently in line with base reality.
In the course of the same talk, McCain also found room to berate the assembled midshipmen's commander-in-chief, albeit passive-aggressively, which is reminder no. 5,273 that the "Straight Talk Express" was more of an aspiration — a vague state of mind, like "remaining positive" — than an actual way of doing politics. A real no-nonsense, red-blooded American patriot would have the courage to insult the president in front of the troops by name, surely.
Instead he stuck to euphemisms about the legitimacy of the 2016 election and the "centipede" of scandals following the Trump administration. "I've seen these scandals before," he said. Zero Pinocchios. The closest McCain has ever come to apologizing for his wrongdoing in the Keating scandal is acknowledging that accepting more than $100,000 in campaign contributions and trips on private jets from a man and his business associates and then taking time out of your busy schedule to discuss their money pit of a financial institution with federal regulators amounted to a "wrong [sic] appearance."
McCain's speeches are all the same regardless of their ostensible subject. His constant — indeed his only — theme these past 30 years has been the selflessness, gravity, and heroism of Sen. John McCain. He has managed over the course of a long political career to besmirch the handful of good decisions he has made with his pomposity. Even something as straightforward as voting no on one of the dozens of bills meant to repeal the Affordable Care Act this year became for McCain an exercise in reminding us that he is fluent in the treacly language of middle-school civics textbooks. For him the problem with the bill was not that it would have been a nightmare for poor people in his home state but rather that a sadly insufficient number of "hearings" had been held for a statesman of his caliber to offer his assent to this otherwise noble product of our stalwart republican legislature. Scarcely a weekend of this man's life goes by without his appearing on a Sunday talk show to bloviate tautologically about how his latest honorable, decent, above-the-fray position is the inevitable result of his being honorable and decent and above the fray.
As painful as it is to ask myself, I do wonder occasionally whether the rest of us are worthy of John McCain.