On Monday, Senator John McCain received the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal. Kudos to him for that. McCain railed the rise of “half-baked, spurious nationalism” during his acceptance speech — which was widely praised as rebuke of President Trump and his ideological mouthpiece, former White House strategist Steve Bannon.
But McCain’s remarks can hardly be seen as “slamming” Trump, considering the Arizona Republican failed to mention those who fostered the imperious nationalism that presently grips this country. Here’s the portion of his speech “aimed at” Trump and apparently “blasted” nationalism:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to”
Trump’s ascension to the presidency has fooled many into believing that conservatives are now their friends — despite the fact that their votes consistently prove otherwise. By enabling a “spurious” nationalist like Trump through the approval his “half-baked” policies, doesn’t that make McCain somewhat of nationalist himself — or at least partially culpable? Lest we forget that McCain is a war hawk who has a history of making opaquely racist comments and ran for president on a ticket with Sarah Palin.
Consider how McCain was described in First Things, a conservative religious journal. “If John McCain is not a nationalist, then there are no nationalists anywhere,” Pete Spiliakos wrote in May.
Of course, naming Trump as an purveyor of “spurious nationalism” would ensure McCain’s remaining days in the senate were uncomfortable. But if there were ever a moment for McCain to explicitly criticize someone who never apologized for publicly denigrating his military service, now would be the time.