I never voted for John McCain. I did not agree with most of the political policies he advocated. However, he was a principled, honorable and honest man. And he maintained those high moral standards even in the face of pain, suffering, torture, and Republican hostility.
McCain fought hard for what he believed, but he fought without denigrating or vilifying those with whom he disagreed. He debated ideas without demeaning those who held them. He valued a free and often adversarial press, and he never bullied or threatened a challenger.
McCain understood that our nation and its political institutions are exceptional because of the principles and ideals upon which they are built and the rules by which they operate. If a politician or political party wins a battle by cheating, lying, playing dirty, or ignoring the rules, the win is undemocratic and destructive of our American ideals. The end does not justify the means. Most of us strongly condemn and disqualify anyone who cheats, lies or bullies to win.
Because he held our national interest above party or personal gain, McCain compromised and cooperated with political opponents, even making them friends and choosing two political opponents for the honor of eulogizing him. He never incited antagonism or exploited his supporters’ fear, ignorance and emotional weaknesses. He famously corrected a malicious, ignorant, false anti-Obama statement by a woman at a campaign rally, and he did it immediately and publicly. He had the character to insist on the truth even when it was not in his self-interest, including admitting and correcting his own mistakes and personal flaws.
What a contrast with our current president, who lies, bullies, threatens, denigrates, slanders, and impetuously defends himself against even the slightest perceived disagreement. Trump surrounds himself with unethical people and then demands loyalty above honesty. He never admits a mistake or personal fault. He is narcissistic, bombastic, irrational, volatile, impulsive, and unprincipled. As McCain said, “We are better than this.”
We must help voters manage their irrational fears and not be conned by unscrupulous hucksters. Character matters.