An Open Letter to John McCain
Dear Senator John McCain:
We don’t know each other. You are a war hero, a major public personality, a former Presidential candidate, a distinguished leader of your party, and a Republican. I am a 59 year old political science professor who grew up in New York and lives in Indiana, has never served in the armed forces, and is a liberal who generally supports Democrats. We are very different. And there is no reason why you should really care what I think. But we are both American citizens who care about public life. And while I have usually disagreed with you on policy, I have always admired you, because you are a “maverick,” and very much your own man. And you clearly are a man who has sacrificed greatly and heroically for what you believe. You are a man of honor.
And so I am writing, openly and sincerely, to ask you: when will you come out publicly against Donald Trump’s Presidential candidacy?
I know he is a Republican candidate and you are a Republican — though we both know that you have been a lifelong Republican, and he is a carpetbagger. I know you are up for reelection and facing a primary challenge from your right. I know that there are many things about the Obama administration that you don’t like, and that there are many things about a Hillary Clinton administration that you would not like.
But I also know that you are a serious man and, above all, you are a patriot.
You know that a great many Republican intellectuals have distanced themselves from Trump and have moved toward or even endorsed Clinton, including especially some so-called “neoconservatives” who support a strong military and a “muscular” foreign policy and who are indeed in many ways your own ideological soul-mates. And you know why: because Clinton has serious foreign policy commitments, and Trump has neither commitments nor credentials.
You know that Clinton has a record of working in a fairly bipartisan way, and in the past you have yourself publicly stated this about her work as a US Senator.
You have heard the many derogatory things that Trump has said about the US military, and especially about you. He crudely disparaged you and your time as a prisoner of war, calling you “a loser.” This was shocking to many. I can understand why you might have avoided responding to Trump in kind. For you are a man of honor and not a man of the gutter, and you are sufficiently proud of your own accomplishments to be able to ignore a nasty man who is so insecure about his own.
But a little over a week ago Donald Trump placed our country’s commitment to NATO in question in a most irresponsible way. And this week he went further, publicly endorsing efforts of Russian espionage agencies to hack the e-mails of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s Presidential nominee, a former Secretary of State, a former first lady, and former Senate colleague, and an American citizen.
You know this. And you know what it means. So when will you speak out against it?
If there is anyone who understands that some things are more important than party, it is you.
If there is anyone who symbolizes patriotism, it is you.
You and I are politically very far apart. But we are both citizens of the United States. And right now our constitutional and democratic order is in danger. The political party with which you are associated is promoting as its Presidential candidate a xenophobic demagogue who seems more aligned with Vladimir Putin than with his own government and its laws.
You are a conservative. Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, once said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” You know this quote. And you are a good man. You have kept your distance from Trump. But recent events require more. And you are a doer, and not a man content to do nothing. So please, please answer this question of mine, which is a question also held by so many of your fellow citizens, both Democrats and Republicans: when will you stand up proudly, as the patriot that you are, and say to the American people that a vote for Trump is a vote for demagogue, and a vote against American democracy, and a vote that you cannot support. When will you publicly declare that you are against the campaign of this nasty man who has disparaged you and threatened our country? I appreciate that you just denounced Trump’s nasty comments about the Khan family, and also appreciate that you said that you would not refrain from making such comments even if they “may benefit others with whom I disagree.” I admire this. But when will you come out and denounce not simply Trump’s comment but Trump himself, and say that you disagree strongly with Trump, and oppose his election, and encourage all who are serious about patriotism to vote for someone else?
Time is running out. And we are waiting . . .