It’s a grave day when the president of the United States of America, the leader of the free world, is so loathed by a member of his own party that he isn’t invited to one of the most important funerals of his presidency. That day was Saturday, Sept. 1.
Although John McCain, a memorialized war hero, presidential candidate and extremely influential Republican senator, passed away on Aug. 25, his feud with President Donald Trump did not die with him. The two were noted rivals, with Trump mocking McCain’s history as a prisoner of war and McCain vocally opposing the polarizing president.
McCain invited former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush to present eulogies at his funeral and nixed Trump from the guest list altogether.
And even though Bush and Obama maintained a demure and respectful tone during the funeral, they certainly knew a promising platform for which to bash Trump when they saw one.
In his eulogy, Obama said: “So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”
A slightly deeper reading of his speech reveals a pointed finger at Trump for peddling the insults and controversies that he references.
Obama is known for his decorum and respectability, so it makes sense that his insults might not be quite as pointed as possible. Bush, however, had no trouble calling out the current president as a “bigot” and “swaggering [despot].”
“John was, above all, a man with a code. He lived by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country,” Bush said.
“He was courageous — with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen. He was honest, no matter whom it offended. Presidents were not spared… He respected the dignity inherent in every life — a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators.”
“Perhaps above all,” Bush continued, “John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy — to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places.”
It may seem to be common sense to favor an honest man over a bigot, but in the current political climate, we need reminding. Although Bush certainly made catastrophic mistakes, and although Obama was certainly not universally beloved, it felt like a gift this past weekend to watch two men act with grace and dignity — both of which this country has been lacking as of late.
But perhaps the most compelling eulogy of all, the most blatantly and rightfully angry, was given by Meghan, the daughter of McCain.
“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly… The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.”
McCain’s policies did not often align with my own political beliefs, but I am grateful that a man such as him existed — a man who favored honesty and bravery and respectability. We could all use a bit more of that.