The Jury Talks Back


John McCain’s Sanctimonious and Disgraceful Speech

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:59 am

I wanted to like John McCain’s speech. I really did.

No matter what you think of John McCain’s political positions (I despise many of them), most decent Americans are pulling for him to beat cancer. It was inspiring to see him return to the Senate to cast a critical vote to allow debate on ObamaCare repeal.

And then he gave the speech.

It started out with some high-flown phrases about the importance of the Senate as a deliberative body. Sure, it all sounded a little self-important, but there were some good sentiments in there. The first time I heard the speech, I was impressed with the first few minutes.

Then it got to the part where we have to do the right thing and cooperate with Democrats who never cooperated with us.

To paraphrase McCain: to hell with that.

The text of the speech can be read in its entirety here. Here’s the part that really bugged me:

The [Obama] administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.

Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act? If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let’s return to regular order.

Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. [Applause] Something that my dear friends on the other side of the aisle didn’t didn’t allow to happen nine years ago. Let’s see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.

I realize this brands me as one of the “bombastic loudmouths” whom McCain decried in his remarks . . . but what sanctimonious garbage.

McCain starts off this passage correctly: “The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare.” Absolutely right. Well said, Senator.

So, as any idiot can see, the correct solution is to undo what the Democrats did. They never should have done it — but they did. So it must be undone.

Then, and only then, if you want to go through your “regular order” and your committees and all those procedures that you have fallen in love with over the last 30 years, go nuts.

But instead, McCain wants to have one set of rules for the left, and another for conservatives. He wants to let Democrats run roughshod over Republicans, and suffer nothing for it but a tsk-tsking — while Republicans, once in power, have to hold hands with the opposition and compromise, compromise, compromise.

There is nothing inherently immoral about passing legislation without votes from the opposition. You could say it shouldn’t happen that way. But it’s not immoral. So if the other side does that to you, and you can put things back to the status quo by doing the same thing back to them, you should do it.

Let’s take an analogy. Say Mitch and Nancy move into a furnished apartment where the couch is in the center of the room. Mitch wants the couch on the right side of the room. Nancy wants it on the left side. If Nancy simply moves the couch to the left without consulting Mitch, then as soon as Mitch is able, Mitch should move the couch back to at least the center of the room.

There’s nothing wrong with saying: look. I am moving everything back the way it was. Then, if you want to talk to me about it, we can talk.

If instead, Mitch praises the virtues of compromise and incrementalism, and talks about leaving the couch on the left side of the room but perhaps changing its position a little bit, then Mitch is a giant loser. Mitch, not to put too fine a point on it, is a word that rhymes with his name.

The analogy breaks down in a couple of places, of course. If the couch really does belong on the right side of the room, Mitch should simply move it there. To hell with compromise. Arranging furniture is a matter of taste, while using central planning to arrange huge swaths of the economy is known to be insane and disastrous.

The analogy also breaks down because in real life, Mitch isn’t the one to suffer. The people are. In my example, Mitch will get run over by Nancy his whole life — and if he allows it to happen, he deserves it. But the people of the United States don’t deserve to be stuck with socialized, government-controlled medicine, just because Republicans are a pack of lying hypocrites.

So, as much as I wanted to like McCain’s speech, I loathed it. I absolutely despised it. It is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with Washington.

I want both McCain’s brain tumor and his weak incrementalism to disappear, far, far away.

Senator McCain, please beat brain cancer. But as long as you’re serving in the Senate, you need to understand that compromise and collaboration, if not met halfway, are just surrender. Nothing more.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


  1. So McCain is being McCain.

    Comment by SPQR — 7/26/2017 @ 8:53 am

  2. I think what will actually happen here is that Republicans, incensed at how badly the Democrats have behaved, will push things through without cooperation, while blaming their actions on the Democrats.

    Then, when the Democrats come back to power, they will blame the Republicans (who never worked with them and behaved badly while in power) for all of the bad things they do in power, and they’ll ratchet up the intensity and increase the badness.

    Then, when the Republicans come back to power after that, they will blame the Democrats (who never worked with them and behaved badly while in power) for all of the bad things *they* do in power, and they’ll ratchet up the intensity and increase the badness.

    I am increasingly convinced that the system is going to collapse in a violent outbreak of partisan-tribal hatred within my lifetime, and arguments like the one you’re making make that more likely rather than reducing its likelihood.

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 9:28 am

  3. (for what it’s worth, probably 40% of my time online right now is making the exact same argument against my liberal friends who insist that there’s no point talking to or listening to Trump voters because they’re all a bunch of sexist racist reprobates anyway).

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 10:04 am

  4. > But it’s not immoral. So if the other side does that to you, and you can put things back to the status quo by doing the same thing back to them, you should do it.

    To quote an old liberal adage, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 10:33 am

  5. To put it more concretely, imagine that Trump is re-elected in 2020 and the Democrats take the house in 2022. In 2023, Ginsburg dies, and Trump appoints a Gorsuch-style conservative to replace her; Schumer refuses to allow her nomination to return to the floor.

    From his perspective, the argument his supports will make, is that he’s doing the *exact* same thing McConnell did in 2016.

    *I* think it will seriously harm the Republic for Schumer to do that. Liberal partisans will cheer it.

    Where will you stand?

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 10:35 am

  6. That’s where we already are on both sides, aphrael. It feels that way to me. Even McCain doesn’t believe what he says or he would have said it months ago.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 10:40 am

  7. DRJ: while I acknowledge that we may already be there, I don’t think finding ourselves there justifies making the situation worse; instead it calls for a great effort to pull ourselves out of the situation.

    One of the things which most demoralizes me about the politics of the day is the thought that not only may it be impossible to do so, there may not even be a substantial number of people who want to, anymore.

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 10:58 am

  8. Maybe, but I think some people on both sides care about the fact of winning (no matter how they get there) and some people on both sides care about both the fact of winning and how they win. I’m in the former camp when it comes to actual war and in the latter camp when it comes to everything else in life, so I “get” both sides, but I don’t think we can change either of them.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 11:12 am

  9. aphrael, I think one of the reasons that we are so strongly divided is because we have come to the point where the two major political strands in our country are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of what would be best for America. One side believes that we need more government involvement in most facets of life (e.g., environmental regulation, financial regulation, expanded entitlement programs including health care and college tuition, legally enforced tolerance, etc.) and the other side believes that we need far less government intrusion into our lives and that we already have a government that is too big and attempts to do too much which strangles private initiative. I really don’t see how we compromise there.

    Comment by JVW — 7/26/2017 @ 11:27 am

  10. JVW, respectfully, that doesn’t describe the words people I talk to use in their rhetoric about the other tribes. I’m not talking about what the politicians and talking heads say, i’m talking about what “normal” people say.

    A surprisingly large chunk of people on the left think that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist sexist piece of trash who wants to bring back Jim Crow.

    A surprisingly large chunk of people on the right think that everyone who voted for Clinton is a dumb libtard who wants to force everyone to let their children get raped by faux-trannies and commit white genocide.

    Both of these are ridiculous caricatures. But they are deeply felt ridiculous caricatures that people believe in, at least in part because a lot of politicians and media figures on both sides are *inflaming* these divisions for their own political ends.

    That choice to inflame for political ends, rather than to work to heal? That choice is IMO, evil.

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 11:31 am

  11. See also this:


    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 11:40 am

  12. aphrael, I must disagree. I’ve found that among ordinary people who were not political junkies, Hillary Clinton opponents had a far better idea of what her policy positions were than Trump opponents understood Trump’s positions.

    Both sides had inflamed rhetoric but those who hated Trump were far more distant from the reality.

    Comment by SPQR — 7/26/2017 @ 11:44 am

  13. SPQR — I don’t see how that constitutes a disagreement.

    My premise, as stated, is: both sides have irrational ridiculous caricatures of the others, and politicians and media types on both sides are inflaming those irrational ridiculous caricatures in a way that will hurt the country.

    Your premise, as stated, seems to me to be: both sides have inflamed rhetoric but the liberals are worse than the conservatives.

    Your statement isn’t a disagreement with mine. :) Instead, it’s an addition on a related topic (which side is worse about it) that I’m deliberately not addressing.

    I’m deliberately not addressing it because I think the topic is *itself* harmful. “Which one of these two tribes is worse about this bad behavior which both tribes are engaging in” is an excuse for tribes to hate each other more, rather than coming together to solve the problem.

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 11:50 am

  14. In his 2016 re=election race, McCain ran against ObamaCare and his his opponent’s support for ObamaCare. Today, McCain voted against repealing ObamaCare. This is what’s wrong with politics, not the extremists from either side.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 1:35 pm

  15. He also voted for repealing Obamacare (he voted for the first bill but against the second bill).

    Seems like that’s what’s *right* with politics: “i agree with your goal, but this process/mechanism is a bad one which has serious risks and downsides”.

    Not all repeals of Obamacare are equal, and not all of them are equally deserving of consideration (or of derision).

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 1:41 pm

  16. This was the clean repeal vote. He voted for the clean repeal in 2015 and ran for re-election in that issue in Summer-Fall 2016, but now he is against it in 2017. Is that really what you think principled, thoughtful politics is about?

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 1:47 pm

  17. He played his constituents, but now we know why he launched his tirade yesterday. He wanted that to be the story, not this vote.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 1:49 pm

  18. DRJ, at 16, that’s a fair point.

    At the same time, though, I think it’s more likely that he’s always been opposed to a clean repeal, but he didn’t need to vote against it before because he knew Obama would veto it anyway, so why bother having the argument?

    Which points the contempt at 2015 and 2016 rather than at today.

    Comment by aphrael — 7/26/2017 @ 2:04 pm

  19. He didn’t have to vote for repeal in 2015 and run on it in 2016 if he didn’t agree with it. The only reason to aim your contempt at those actions and not today’s vote is if you think he was lying about his position then but today he was honest. That is deception and it taints everything, especially today.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 2:19 pm

  20. Saying “Today I was finally honest” isn’t something to admire.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 2:37 pm

  21. You are letting your desire to save ObamaCare lead you to justify what he did.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/26/2017 @ 2:39 pm

  22. McCain is trading on cheap valor now. He knows full well it is political suicide to oppose the great “maverick” who suffered so for his country and that he will never face another election.

    Now, he can be his true self, without consequence. He can speak of lofty principle and demonstrate how he is “above it all.” What rot.

    The Senate is the equal of the executive, John? In what universe? At a bare minimum, you are one half of the legislative piece of governance. Half. This bit of hubristic sophistry presents a clear picture as to the honor, if any, McCain retains as a Senator. It’s all about him, which is to say, no honor.

    Comment by Ed from SFV — 7/26/2017 @ 4:27 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.

Live Preview

Powered by WordPress.