Senator John McCain, at age 80, is having his finest hour. At the Munich Security Conference on Friday he put an end to his deferring and dodging and pretending that Donald Trump was just another righteous conservative. As per a Washington Post headline, he "systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview."
Speaking of the United States, McCain said that founders of that conference "would be alarmed by [its] increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
And by, "the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups -- especially Muslims."
This is the kind of indictment we might expect from a Paul Krugman or, perhaps an Andrew Sullivan, when he wakes up on the left side of his bed, and, as always, a Frank Rich. But remember, this is John McCain talking, a man to military rank born and sworn, both his father and grandfather having been four-star admirals. McCain is a patriot, someone who believes fervently in certain ideals of the United States, ideals he thinks are being attacked and undermined by the current president.
At the conference McCain went on to say that his peers, "would be alarmed by the growing inability -- and even unwillingness -- to separate truth from lies.”
And that they'd be "alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent."
McCain didn't mention Donald Trump by name. No need.
McCain speaks for me when he says these things, when he argues that the basics of American democracy are threatened by Donald Trump.
Again, this is his finest hour.
The Vietnamese, his bombing targets, never threatened anything vital about America. As McCain now sees it, Trump does.
As for McCain's military record, let's complicate it by saying that as bomber pilot he was part of Operation Rolling Thunder, the effort to bomb the Vietnamese if not all the back to the Stone Age then close enough to make them submit to American control of their country.
This is not to justify or defend what happened to him when he crashed over Hanoi and was saved by the North Vietnamese, only to be subjected to two years of isolation and lots of torture.
I could go on to argue that when you're caught bombing the civilian population of the capital of a country that has never attacked you harsh treatment should not be unexpected. How many Vietnamese did his bombs bring down? But I don't want to go there. I want to let that argument go.
Torture is wrong, and McCain heroic to have endured it.
Maybe he's being heroic now.