I like John McCain. I have liked him for a long time, even when he got angry with me one night years ago in the Green Room at CNN.
In fact, on that occasion, he taught me an important lesson about civil disagreement: It is OK to challenge someone’s judgment or disagree with a person's positions, he told me, but it is not all right to impugn motives or attack someone personally.
Although I didn’t think at the time that I had done that, I became a lot more careful in the future to follow that advice. And I commend that advice to the extreme voices that use hate words and demonize opponents on talk radio and during many of the TV cable shows on both the right and the left.
I also have liked Sen. McCain’s willingness to reach across the aisle over the years and work with Democrats on bipartisan legislation. This is what he did in sponsoring campaign finance reform with liberal Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, showing no little political courage in standing up to his conservative base who opposed campaign finance reform.
Even where I have thoroughly disagreed with him on issues, such as his 100 percent support for the intervention in a pre-emptive attack on Iraq or his opposition to President Obama’s national healthcare bill, I have respected his sincerity and authentic conservative principles.
Most of all, I admired McCain’s willingness (along with his equally politically courageous and often bipartisan friend, Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham) to take the lead on comprehensive immigration reform.
It was McCain who joined with Democrats — and with then-Republican President George W. Bush — to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill: one that would create a pathway to citizenship to the estimated at more than 11 million to 12 million undocumented “illegal” aliens while enhancing and providing extra funds for border security.
He exposed himself to attacks from the right of his Republican Party base that accused him of favoring “amnesty” for illegal aliens, a charge by definition false, since his version of amnesty imposed a number of requirements before legal status could be obtained by the undocumented alien.
During McCain's run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, he downplayed the “pathway to citizenship” aspects of his position and emphasized his border security position, and I understood that. Politics is politics, and McCain deserves more of a cushion, in my mind, given his record of authenticity, courage, and bipartisanship.
But then came the last several days. The state of Arizona passed an abominable, literally indefensible and obviously unconstitutional law that would allow police officers to stop anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being undocumented.
Anyone who can add two-plus-two would have to concede that this will lead to — no, will require — racial profiling by police officers.
How else would a police officer “reasonably suspect” people's being undocumented unless their skins were dark or they spoke with a Hispanic accent? To ask the question is to answer the question.
Worse, the bill would require the arrest of anyone who couldn’t produce “papers” proving their documented status. Is there anyone who doesn’t think of Nazi Germany or the movie "Casablanca" when the German SS walked through Rick’s casino demanding all show their “papers”?
One shudders at the memory of this type of fascist state culture until you realize that is exactly what the legislature of Arizona and the Republican Gov. Jan Brewer just signed into law.
And what did Sen. McCain say? He supported the law because people are “frustrated” at the absence of border security. He is also running in a primary against conservative talk-show host and former congressman J.D. Hayworth, who praised Gov. Brewer and the law.
Even Florida tea party Senate candidate Marco Rubio opposed the bill as “government over-reaching” — and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned that the bill would lead to racial discrimination. And Sen. McCain’s close friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., while decrying the lack of border security and genuine fear by citizens who live along the borders, still called the Arizona bill unconstitutional.
So is a Senate seat really worth it, Sen. McCain, to go against everything you have stood for through the years as a voice of integrity and courage in the U.S. Senate?
Can you really look into the mirror and say the words, “show me your papers?”
Your fans, including many Democrats like me, want to believe it really ain’t so that you support this bill, even if you won’t say it ain’t so.
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