Maybe the goalposts have moved. Maybe "heroic" means something different today than it did ten, twenty, fifty years ago. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.
But John McCain's stands against his own party's efforts to destroy Obamacare and rip away health insurance from millions of Americans -- while he fights his own battle against cancer -- is heroic. Yes, it's just a vote. No, it doesn't compare to being a POW for six years. But it's heroic.
When he ran for president in 2008 against a young Senator named Barack Obama, I was all in for the other guy. I thought Senator McCain represented the past -- and maybe he did.
But in 2017, with Donald Trump as President of the United States, the past doesn't seem so bad. Senator McCain's speech on the Senate floor calling for a return to regular order, a return to bipartisanship, was beautiful and moving. You should read it or watch it. One of my favorite sections is talking about the decline of the Senate as the greatest deliberative body in the world:
"Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they'll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We've all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I've let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn't glamorous or exciting. It doesn't feel like a political triumph. But it's usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours."
Jimmy Kimmel, who's commitment to the fight for health care for all Americans has been noble over the last several months, tweeted: "Thank you @SenJohnMcCain for being a hero again and again and now AGAIN".
He nailed it. Twice now, on the brink of disaster, John McCain has represented the voice of sensibility. He's been a key dissenting vote on disastrous pieces of legislation that would have unimaginably hurt the quality of life for many Americans. These were unquestionably hard stands for a Republican to make.
As a Democrat, this is a strange place to be. In 2008, Senator McCain was demonized. Some impugned his integrity. There were many who, this year, predicted his rhetoric was all a charade, and that ultimately he would vote for the GOP legislation to repeal Obamacare without any meaningful replacement. They were wrong.
It would be easy for McCain to hold a grudge against Obama and the Democratic Party. He literally could have unraveled his former opponent's signature accomplishment with a vote. It would have been easy. But he didn't.
One thing Senator McCain has indisputably proven is that he's different -- and by being different, and standing up for his values, he has earned himself a place in American history. The title of "Maverick," which seemed like political opportunism in 2008, has proven to be well deserved.
Sen. McCain's decision to vote no on Graham-Cassidy is nothing short of amazing. It's a good litmus test for anyone considering a position in public office: would you be willing to vote against the proposal of your best friend if you believed it was the wrong thing to do?
The September 11 edition of Axios AM, with the title "Something we should all shoot for," featured a quote from Senator John McCain on CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper.
"I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with what I have been able to do. And there's two ways of looking at these things. And one of them is to celebrate. I am able to celebrate a wonderful life and I will be grateful for additional time that I have."
Thank you, Senator McCain.