Integrity Check For Senator McCain

Arizona Senator John McCain, a long-time leader of the Republican Party and a bona fide old lion of the U.S. Senate, has been diagnosed with an aggressive and malignant form of brain cancer. Surgeons removed the tumor this week, but the Vietnam war hero and former Presidential candidate knows he is facing the fight of his life. This kind of tumor tends to come back, so McCain’s treatment has to be as aggressive as the cancer.

The unavoidable truth is that Senator McCain has an ethical obligation to resign, and the sooner the better. Members of Congress, like Supreme Court Justices, should not drag their tenure into advanced age, when health, energy and mental acuity are likely to decline. McCain, who is 80, has shown unusual vigor as he has aged, but it is absurd to  imagine that he can do his job while undergoing life-and-death cancer treatments. For his own sake, that of his party, the institution of the Senate, his nation and his legacy, Senator McCain needs to be an exemplar to his colleagues and future elected officials who have the public’s trust. It is a time for him to model sacrifice, selflessness, humility and good judgment.

There is important work to be done, and if it is to be done well, men and women of health and focus must be the ones to do it. John McCain is an amazing and honorable man who doesn’t have to prove his mettle and fortitude to anyone. Now he has to have the courage and integrity to do the hardest thing of all: to know when to quit, and to do it.

I’m betting that he will. John McCain knows how to be a hero.

27 thoughts on “Integrity Check For Senator McCain

  1. A very good friend of mine had a very similar type of cancer in his mid 30s. The guy was in awesome shape, used to run half-marathons and was strong as a bull. After 3 months of treatment he was frail and had to take long-term medical leave at work because even sitting for a couple of hours was tiring. He’s recovering now (thank God!) after a few years and slowly regaining his health. If a relatively mild desk job is pretty much undoable, I can’t imagine what a demanding job like Senator will do to your body in combination with the treatment. I wish Sen. McCain the best, and hope he recovers; but that recovery will be a full-time job. He should resign for his country, his constituents and himself. After seeing this situation up close and personal I will not think any less of him if he does.

  2. I think Sen. McCain has exemplified many of the laudable aspects we want to see in citizens and our elected representatives, whatever you may think about his politics or where you may live. Maybe because I am a foreigner (Canadian) but I am surprised that one would need to resign. Would his continued Senate membership not be necessary for his Senate health benefits? Or have I assumed incorrectly that he has these?

    • That issue is irrelevant. McCain has health benefits as a veteran, a member of Congress, and he is wealthy. It doesn’t matter: he shouldn’t hang on as anon-functioning member of the legislature for his own benefit. This is PUBLIC SERVICE. The nation’s interest, not his, are supposed to come first.

      Do Canadian public servants not acknowledge or comprehend this? My sympathies, if true.

      • I disagree that it is irrelevant outright. His personal wealth may tip the balance and I was not aware he was that flush. I assume aggressive and top drawer treatment like this would cost well over $1M. Is that not entirely what insurance is for? Would veteran benefits even come close? I would not begrudge him for his fair use of his current benefits.

        PUBLIC SERVICE is not completely altruistic and I don’t think it should be or we would not attract the brightest and best, only the wealthiest.

        That he might not take his salary now is a another consideration. I would applaud him if he renounced it but don’t think less of him if he does not.

        I won’t make any comment on Canadian public servants! Don’t get me started.

        • It is irrelevant, and your argument that public service is not altruistic is gibberish. Serving the public is the #1 priority for a public servant. Duh. For a public servant to stay in an important job for job benefits would be unconscionable, and the suggestion that good people cannot be found for public service unless they hav tangible benefits is an insult to public servants.

          The topic here is ethics. For McCain, or anyone, to do what you suggest is per se unethical.

          • Clearly we are at odds on this.

            What if (and you can dodge answering hypothetical questions like politicians do) the elected public servant was pregnant and took maternity leave? Can she not claim her benefits because that is not 100% in the public interest? Should she refrain from having a child while in office?

            And on a tangentially related note, I was interested in Mark Steyn’s post today noting how many leaders of EU countries are childless. Shocked number and an amazing fact that supports his argument regarding demographics.

            And no my argument is not gibberish. You and everyone understood it.

            No one has cogently countered my point that without salary and benefits only the wealthy need apply. Ethics can’t be so demanding that it requires the sick or injured to quit. Compassion has to play a role does it not?

            In a perfect world things may be different.

            • That’s a BAD hypothetical, that’s all. A pregnant woman can work right up to delivery or close to it. No, she can’t take maternity leave—the government and her district require representation. Pregnancy is like an illness, and when the child arrives, while she may be distracted or stressed or tired, a mother is capable of doing her job. She is not EIGHTY. A better analogy would be Gaby Giffords, and yes, she should have resigned much, much sooner than she did. Some jobs do not permit long breaks—they are called professions. If you don’t accept that, and that in those jobs you must put others before yourself, then it is unethical to seek them.

              • And no, compassion has nothing to do with it. The country is more important than the individual public servant. They can take short vacations, but they are still on the job. If they are going to be incapacitated for any substantial length of time or indefinitely, their obligation is to step aside. Very simple.

        • I think it’s counterintuitive that proving the best benefits and compensation attracts the best talent in public service. I think it’s just the opposite. I think it would tend to bring in mercenaries and those in it for themselves.

          Crappier conditions with incredible responsibility in the public realm I think would tend to push away those who don’t have the best interests of the public in mind.

    • McCain would have health benefits as a retiree from a) His Senate health plan, b) Possibly regular federal civil service health benefits, c) VA benefits, d) Medicare, and e) His own, considerable resources. I think this would be the last thing he would be worried about.

  3. He should, but, given his anger and bitterness toward the President, I am not sure he will, he has acted small-minded and petty these last few months, and I only half blame him after Trump’s cheap shot at him during the campaign. Then again, Republicans tend to know when it’s time to step down or move on, whereas Democrats tend to hang on to the very end, notably Kennedy, who was still a senator when he died of the same cause in 2009.

    • I’m not sure we can expect him to quit being angry and bitter, or small-minded and petty. I assume he can behave ethically even while angry and bitter. Grown up people with an ethics compass usually can.

  4. Assuming he doesn’t, in fact, resign, can we determine that the decision is unethical based on these facts?

    Could the tumor have damaged his ability to make ethical decisions?

      • No, but my father-in law, who suffered a stroke, doesn’t speak gibberish either, and the doctors informed my wife and I that he would never, ever get his “high-level problem solving skills” back.

        Just because one can speak properly, doesn’t mean one has access to the proper part of the brain for solving complex problems, according to his doctors. I could conceive of it being just the same for ethical considerations (although I’m not a doctor, so I wouldn’t know).

  5. “John McCain knows how to be a hero.”
    Though I agree that this statement is clearly true, I don’t think that it reflects John McCain post Vietnam (at least not very well). It has been quite a long time ago and most folks probably don’t remember what a big deal it was, but I surely remember the Keating Five imbroglio. Thousands of people were hurt in that scandal and thousands lost everything. McCain gave a lip service apology for his involvement (and for taking huge donations from Keating) but spent most of his efforts in keeping the mud from that mess off of himself.

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