Don’t venerate politicians just because they die


Graphic by Ayomi Wolff

Madeline Kessler

A strange phenomenon has occurred with the recent deaths of John McCain and George HW Bush. Americans have idly accepted history as it is presented by the media, with no questioning how a funeral, something intimate for mourning loved ones, has been politicized. The speakers at their funerals drew from across party lines, and called for unity, using the tension related to the president as reason to draw bipartisan ranks. The execution of these funerals were events to push nationalism, urged by the media, that felt obligated to present the funerals that turned an eye to the faults of the late politicians. A state funeral should not be, as writer Roger Sollenberger puts it, “PR disinfectant.”

Senator and POW John McCain’s death August 25th again exhibited a view of history focused more on lofty principles of morality than honesty. McCain told Anderson Cooper last year he wanted to be remembered as a man who “served his country and was not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.”

Commended by Bernie Sanders as “a man of decency and honor,” and by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as “an unparalleled example of human decency.” There seems to be a convenient loss of memory, seeing as McCain said at an Arizona Republican fundraiser in the late 90s amidst the Monica Lewinsky scandal, “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly Because Janet Reno is her father.” Not only did he call a then 18 year old ugly, but noted at Hillary Clinton having a lesbian affair.
The man received the honor he wished for, but those mistakes, they are hefty. In 2006, McCain turned his back on the middle-class and voted for Bush’s tax cuts in favor of the rich. He again turned his back on working Americans when he supported Trump’s tax cuts. McCain advocated for military interventionism, from the Iran-Contra to the Balkans to North Korea to Iran and to most infamously the Iraq War, which he complained Bush 43 did not do enough to decimate the country. On the Senate floor, he incorrectly called al Qaeda a Shiite group, following with, “Sunni, Shiite, whatever.” Not to mention, he hand-picked Sarah Palin to be his 2008 running mate, a woman who was influential in the Tea Party and the Obama birth fraud conspiracy. McCain would cheer at his rallies “Who is the real Barack Obama?” Which incited the crowd to respond “Muslim!” and “Terrorist!”

In recent obituaries, HW Bush, whose father Prescott Bush has ties to banking for the Nazi Party, has been lionized as a bipartisan patriot. He is revered as a president who wished the man who beat him, Bill Clinton, the best. The most troubling thing was when Bush died, progressives went beyond polite condolences and sharing personal anecdotes about what the late president meant to them, and went as far to patronize him, which blurs Bush’s legacy into something honorable.

Bush voted against civil rights legislation and criticized the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a congressman. As vice president, he was well informed on the developments of the Iran-Contra scandal, in which illegal arms sales were made to free some Americans held hostage by terrorists in Lebanon, but also used part of the $48 million in profits from the exchange to fund the overthrow of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Bush would pardon several Reagan administrators after his vicious and race-baiting campaign elected him president over Michael Dukakis, where he said he would be “Tough on Crime” which would be the conservative mantra for decades to come, referring to the militarization of police in black neighborhoods. He vetoed a Civil Rights Act in 1990 and denied government intervention in the early days of the AIDS epidemic because the issue was concentrated in LGBT and low-income minority communities. He nominated the most conservative Justice in the court to date Clarence Thomas, who compared affirmative action to slavery, in place of the beloved Civil Rights activist Thurgood Marshall.

Bush dropped 88,500 tons of bombs into Iraq and Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. Atrocity is an understatement to describe the war crimes he committed. Bush burned 408 Iraqi citizens in the Amiriyah shelter in Baghdad and the Highway of Death. He is responsible for thousands of bombs dropped on retreating Iraqi forces, causing the death of over 4,000 children a month, all in his sole term. In response to the shooting down of a commercial airliner carrying 209 Iraqi citizens, he said “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”

In history, where HW Bush and McCain will become mere reminiscences to “better times”, they will no longer be seen as men who have made both moderate choices and unforgivable mistakes. They will be recalled as good politicians. Their transgressions will be muddied in the historical recollection of Americans.