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Horowitz: McCain Plans to Be Heard Even After He’s Gone

Tuesday, May 08, 2018


Rob Horowitz

As he courageously battles an aggressive form of brain cancer, Senator John McCain(R-AZ) may not be in the words of the poet Dylan Thomas, “raging against the dying of the light,” but he is definitely not “going gently into that good night.”

In a series of orchestrated media leaks, close associates of the former Republican Presidential candidate have let it be known that the White House has been told that Vice-President Pence is welcome to attend his funeral, but not President Trump. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will deliver eulogies, visibly symbolizing the bi-partisan cooperation that McCain has championed over his years in the US Senate. 

Obama and Bush both defeated John McCain in presidential contests. As a result, their prominent speaking roles also send a strong message that one can respect and work with political opponents. Demonizing opponents as enemies, McCain believes, is not only counter-productive; it makes it more difficult for our democracy to function well.

Given McCain’s generous embrace of former adversaries, it is difficult to argue as some Trump allies unpersuasively did on television this past weekend that McCain’s decision to exclude President Trump is a matter of personal pique, resulting mainly from then candidate Trump saying that McCain wasn’t really a war hero because he was captured.  While I am sure Trump’s outrageous comments didn’t help, especially given that he has never apologized for them, McCain’s main motivation is to hammer home his view that Trump's daily assault on democratic norms are dangerous for our nation. 

 By not inviting Trump to the funeral, McCain is consciously using the marking of his death to dramatize the contrast between his generous vision of leadership and our democracy and the self-involved, small and divisive actions of the current president. He knows that his disinviting of the president and why will be a major part of what promises to be wall-to-wall media coverage.

Unveiling his funeral plans,  provided the added benefit of generating more interest in McCain’s forthcoming book, “The Restless Wave” and an HBO documentary about the senator, both slated to be out later this month. In a front-page article about McCain in this past Sunday’s New York Times, Jonathan Martin describes these projects: “The film and the book, a copy of which The New York Times obtained independently of Mr. McCain, amount to the senator’s final say on his career and a concluding argument for a brand of pro-free trade and pro-immigration Republicanism that, along with his calls for preserving the American-led international order, have grown out of fashion under President Trump.”

In his new book, McCain criticizes the president’s shallow, faux toughness: “He seems uninterested in the moral character of world leaders and their regimes The appearance of toughness or a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values. Flattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.” Additionally, he points out that Trump’s penchant for calling news he doesn’t like “fake news” has given autocrats around the world cover to crack down on any independent media outlets in their own countries.

I expect Senator McCain’s book and the documentary will get a wide audience. At this time of testing for our democracy, his principled and clear-eyed voice will elevate the debate and better enable us to face hard truths. As the apt slogan of his 2008 Presidential campaign asserted, Senator McCain continues to put country first.

And you have to hand it to the so-called “maverick” and genuine American hero. He has shrewdly figured out how to make sure his views echo beyond the grave.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political 


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