The recent death of Senator John McCain brought out an astounding range of recognition, almost unparalleled for a US Senator. In an interview on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, McCain had said the ceremony should include “a couple of people that stand up and say, ‘This guy, he served his country. ‘” It was much more than that, and the outpouring was as much a show of recognition for Mr. McCain as it turned out to be a virtual shunning of President Trump.
Services began in Arizona where McCain lay in state at the Arizona State Capitol, and a private ceremony took place on what would have been the Senator’s 82nd birthday. The public paid their respect later the same day.
In Washington DC, McCain’s body again lay in state, this time at the US Capitol. In a ceremony there, the US House Speaker, US Majority and Minority Leaders, and Vice President Pence presented wreaths. Only thirteen Senators have been honored with recognition in the US Capitol Rotunda.
Two days later, the McCain family escorted the late Senator to the Vietnam War Memorial, for another wreath laying ceremony. Later that same day, another memorial ceremony was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents Obama and (G.W.) Bush spoke at the National Cathedral.
Much of McCain’s background is virtually eulogized in heroic terms. As the son and grandson of senior Navy Admirals, we know that he graduated (barely) from the US Naval Academy at nearly the bottom of his class, and was anything but a goody-goody. He chose naval aviation, became a pilot and flew combat bombing missions over Viet Nam until his plane was hit by a missile and destroyed. He ejected from the plane, his arm badly broken in the process, and landed in water where he was taken prisoner by citizens, beaten badly, and imprisoned. He was a prisoner for several years; his captors were well aware of his family’s important military standing.
McCain refused an early release, and waited until the war ended. He returned to the US, went through medical rehabilitation, and resumed service involved as a liaison officer with contacts in the Congress. One of the people with whom McCain developed a friendship was Senator John Tower of Texas, who helped with a plan for the naval hero to retire from active service and become involved in politics.
From reports, McCain's time as a POW put a severe strain on his first marriage. Extramarital affairs had started as soon as he was rehabilitated and serving in Florida. He apparently has apologized for his actions. I can't excuse this, but am not in a position to judge based on the extraordinary pressures he and his fellow POWs (and for that matter, many who served in Viet Nam) went through. He convinced his wife to agree to a divorce following a trip to Hawaii where he met Cindi Hensley. Her family provided secure financial support as well as a post-military residential base in Arizona.
Fair or unfair, McCain’s position as the scion of a famous military family along with his own position as a hero from the Viet Nam War, plus his maverick status and reputation back in the States, made him unpopular in some military circles. Envy? Resentment? Disgust? All of these could have played a roll. Personally, I respect how he conducted himself as a POW, and would never want my worst enemy to endure such torture.
In the Senate, McCain often went his own way, and clearly was rough and tumble in terms of coarse language. He was well-regarded by his peers as a straight shooter, but at times refused to follow "party guidance" and went his own, independent way. To many (as well as myself), his selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate for the Presidency in the election against Barack Obama was a disastrous error of judgement!
The thing that was especially notable to me was the respect shown to him with what amounted to a state funeral. The services for McCain, even with his at-times flawed personal life, were in marked contrast to the President, who was not invited to any of the wide range of recognition. To me, these were moved by the nation's respect for the service of McCain, as well as a show of disdain for Trump.