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John McCain and Ronald Reagan: A study in contrasts

Posted by on | May 17, 2018 | No Comments

Americans routinely lose celebrated icons in the realm of entertainment, religion and politics. Sometimes the end comes suddenly. In other instances, it is slow and torturous. Rarely do we know the people personally, but they impact us in myriad ways. 

White-suited author Tom Wolfe died this past week. We recall his well-turned phrases that still rattle around in our consciousness. Movie stars and singers with whom we felt a personal affinity have left a void, though we never shook their hands. We’ll never forget their famous lines, or words of their songs.

When President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981, it changed our lives, but not his. Displaying his well known grace and knack for humor, he joked with his doctors as he was prepped for surgery, saying, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” One doctor, a Democrat, responded, “Mr. President, We are all Republicans today.”

During a presidential debate with Democrat Walter Mondale a reporter pressed Reagan on the issue of his age, reminding him that he was already the oldest president in history. Reagan took it in good humor, saying, “I want you to know that I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” He was able to deflect an insult with amiable wit.

This is McCain’s idea of a joke, perpetrated against his fellow citizens.

There was no press coming to Reagan’s defense and his family didn’t jump in with highly charged tirades against those who ridiculed him as “old,” or “an actor,” implying his was incapable of making sound leadership decisions in a powder-keg global environment.  Instead, he boldly stood in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and challenged Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev totear down this wall.” His actions precipitated the end of the Communist Soviet Union.

These instances — and many others — come to mind as the local Hillary Clinton-endorsing newspaper has turned into the Daily McCain, genuflecting at his altar, telling us which remarks we should be outraged over if they are not slavishly honorific enough to the seriously ill McCain. During a private White House meeting it was leaked that a remark was made that acknowledged McCain was dying. All hell broke lose as both Cindy McCain and daughter Meghan publicly questioned why that person wasn’t fired. Belligerent to the end, McCain has publicly announced he does not want President Trump in attendance at his funeral.

McCain, the son and grandson of Admirals, was born into a life of privilege, easily gaining appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, though graduating at the bottom of his class.

Reagan, whose father was a shoe salesman and alcoholic, was born in an apartment over a commercial business, moving frequently throughout his younger years. He worked his way through college. On his path to the White House, Ronald Reagan’s history included stints as a lifeguard, sportscaster, actor, labor union leader — and governor of California — by which time he had become a Republican.

Five years after leaving the presidency, Ronald Reagan announced his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease in this letter, reprinted in Time magazine. It was done with the same combination of grace, fortitude and dignity he had exhibited throughout his two terms as president — ending with these words:

“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.”

Click here for some of Reagan’s best moments.

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