Who Can Blame McCain for Loathing Trump?

His hatred of the man is more than justified.

The obvious contempt Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds for Donald Trump goes beyond the bigoted billionaire’s idiotic insult of the one-time Vietnam POW in 2015. When McCain looks at Trump, he sees a man who is soiling the residence he wanted to occupy.

Yes, one can argue that McCain set in motion the series of events that put Trump in the White House by selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate in August 2008. Of course, the counterargument is that McCain basically had no choice, that he was under severe pressure to throw a bone to the wingnuts, that he was held hostage by the far right. In other words, it wasn’t Palin per se that caused McCain to lose the 2008 presidential election, but the right-wing forces that intimidated McCain into making such a choice.

When McCain looks at Trump, he sees a man who has what McCain feels he deserved. McCain can’t believe how Trump is abusing the privileges of the presidency, how he seems to think he is bigger than the office. McCain can’t stand Trump’s preening and pomposity. It’s unbecoming and unbearable to a man of McCain’s background. (McCain also obviously cannot stand Trump’s mishandling of the Niger ambush; as Rachel Maddow has suggested, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright may well have perished due to Trump’s incompetence.)

Listen to the cadence of McCain’s speech at the National Constitution Center last Monday. Regardless of McCain’s politics, that’s the way a president should sound. That’s the way Barack Obama sounded. Heck, that’s the way John F. Kennedy sounded in his 1961 inaugural address. Trump will never sound that way. His words can never inspire.

McCain is no moderate; at his worst, he can be as wingnutty as the rest of his party. His abandonment of efforts to address climate change in 2009, clearly out of spite, should never be forgotten or forgiven. Yet, every now and then, McCain can summon a moment of grace. He did so in October 2008, when he told off a birther on the campaign trail. He did so in November 2008, in his honorable concession speech. He did so when he returned to the Senate after cancer surgery. And he did so again Monday night.

When has Trump ever summoned a moment of grace in his entire life?

No wonder McCain loathes Trump. In the 45th President, he sees a man who wouldn’t have lasted five seconds in the military, who couldn’t have survived two days in the US House or Senate. He sees a lucky weakling, a silly stooge, an embarrassment to humanity.

McCain probably feels a similar level of contempt for Trump’s most loyal supporters–and why wouldn’t he? They’re the ones he had to pacify by picking Palin. They’re the ones who view Republicans like McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as RINOs. They’re the ones who embrace “half-baked, spurious nationalism.” They’re the ones who are so ignorant of conservative philosophy they probably think Russell Kirk was the guy who starred in Escape from New York.

McCain has a right to be bitter at Trump and his minions. Had be somehow defeated Obama in 2008, the Trump types would have badgered him at every turn, demanding ever-larger servings of raw meat. A President McCain would have faced unrelenting pressure to deny climate science, spit venom at Democrats and the mainstream media, kill dead any and all efforts to improve health care and pledge fealty to Fox and loyalty to Limbaugh. Like Prince’s proverbial parents, the right-wing base would have been too bold and never satisfied.

Trump and his cheerleaders offend McCain’s vision of the Republican Party. They offend his sense of decency. They offend his honor. Virtue can never respect vulgarity. It can grudgingly tolerate vulgarity–which is what McCain presumably had to do during his time palling around with Palin–but it can never respect vulgarity. That’s why McCain can never respect Trump. It’s why the rest of us can’t either.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.