John McCain skewers the Trump administration's 'America first' outlook in a brutal op-ed

John McCain has tough words for the Trump administration.
(Image credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for WS Productions)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the pages of The New York Times op-ed section on Monday to skewer Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent comments to State Department employees about putting America "first."

"I think it is really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values," Tillerson had said. "Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated — those are our values. Those are not our policies."

But McCain, recalling his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said that it is essential for America to give oppressed people "hope" because "hope is a powerful defense against oppression."

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McCain goes on:

[…] Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don't look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it's convenient, we might officially express that sympathy. But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You're on your own. [The New York Times]

"To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize," McCain added. "Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in."

Read his entire op-ed at The New York Times.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.