At first glance, John McCain’s reported desire to have Barack Obama but not Donald Trump at his funeral seems to highlight the dumbest division yet between Beltway-style Republicans and those of us on the Right who actually want to see the things we’ve been talking about for years accomplished. But the reactions—more specifically, the reactions to the reaction—have done wonders to illuminate the Right’s ongoing civil war.
The wounds of 2016 still haven’t healed, and much of the hostility stems from the fact that a man famous for camaraderie with America’s most loathsome politicians (and a penchant for viciousness trumping Trump’s) won’t spare any of that generosity for a sitting president of his own party. Ultimately, though, it’s McCain’s funeral, and few can blame him for resenting Trump’s indefensible slur about his military service.
Valid though that point may be, most of McCain’s defenders—many reacting to this tweet by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk—didn’t stop there.
But he wants Obama there
That tells you everything you need to know about McCain https://t.co/fJ6FEEDy4z
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) May 6, 2018
National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said it’s “absolutely grotesque” to “us[e] the man’s funeral wishes to piss on his whole life just to prove [one’s] love of Trump.” NR’s Daniel Foster called Kirk “a piece of trash.” Twitchy issued a “JACKASS ALERT” to collect a bunch of ad hominem responses. NewsBusters’ Curtis Houck declared the tweet proof that Kirk is a “terrible influence on young conservatives” who “doesn’t know a thing about honor and dignity.”
Now, from what little I know of Kirk, I might share some of Houck’s misgivings. I don’t know whether he thinks McCain owes Trump an invite. But as a matter of simple factual honesty, that’s not what he said. He merely compared McCain’s Trump snub to his Obama embrace—something most of his critics apparently want to ignore to make it all about “Trumpism.”
Kirk was absolutely right, and it’s a damning indictment that so many either couldn’t grasp such a simple point, or pretended he said something else.
Even if we concede the worst interpretations of Trump’s character, Barack Obama is clearly a worse human being. I trust conservatives don’t need a refresher on Obama’s lies, abuses of power, or constitutional violations, so to take just one example, let’s recall that this is a man so fanatically devoted to murdering babies that he opposed efforts to make hospitals stop starving newborns to death in broom closets.
Yet John McCain wants a eulogy from him. That may not tell us anything about the courage he displayed in Vietnam—for which America absolutely owes him our gratitude—but it surely tells us something about the character he possesses today. And while McCain and his family deserve our prayers during this difficult time, NeverTrumpers cannot weaponize his illness and expect their targets not to respond.
The truth is, McCain’s moral double standards are nothing new. Remember when he called other Vietnam veterans “dishonorable” for speaking out about his buddy John Kerry misrepresenting his own service and slandering theirs? McCain has endless indignation for slights against himself, but none when his “friends” hurt other people in far worse ways.
Whether that sort of thing bothers you or not is deeply revealing—particularly if you also habitually bemoan Trump’s character (bonus points if McCain is your preferred cudgel for doing so). Indeed, this is among the NeverTrump war’s biggest overlooked factors: it’s not that the grassroots can’t handle criticism of Trump, but that they smell ulterior motives when it comes from people who’ve spent their careers ignoring lies and excusing malpractice from their Republicans.
Years of such moral compromising gave us a GOP so ineffectual and untrustworthy that it drove jilted voters into the arms of the first Republican leader in ages that “respectable” conservatives don’t want to compromise for. But instead of reacting with the slightest bit of introspection, the Beltway tribe has only intensified the selective outrage masquerading as conscience.
NeverTrumpers bristle at any suggestion they’re putting style over substance, but what are we supposed to think when they excuse failure and dishonesty from better-mannered Republicans—or expressly argue that a better-mannered Republican’s dishonesty doesn’t matter because he’s “useful”?
Donald Trump has some very real flaws that warrant criticism, but enough with the fiction that he and his followers are the root of all evil in the GOP. When we demand a consistent set of ethics from everyone—regardless of tone, reputation, faction, positions, or friendships—will we have any hope of regaining the public’s trust and saving America.
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