In the Wake of Trump, McCain Shines as a True American Knight
The death of John McCain, the senator from Arizona, has unleashed waves of emotion in the United States and across the world.
That emotion is tied to the spirit of the man.
It is tied to the courage he showed to his compatriots and admirers in the face of illness and then death.
It is explained by his past as a noble warrior, wounded in Vietnam, captured, tortured, and refusing release unless his fellow prisoners were set free with him.
But there is something more in the deep mourning that has settled over the country.
And that something has to do with Trump and the dark shadow that the present tenant of the White House has cast over the globe.
For John McCain was not only the most formidable of the president’s adversaries.
He was more than the man who stood in the way of the pernicious effort to dismantle Obamacare.
He was also the living vestige of the Grand Old Party that, until Trump’s arrival, was the Republican Party.
And in death, reduced, if you will, to his greatness, he has become more than ever the living proof of what that party could be once again, if it so chose.
I met John McCain on several occasions.
We crossed paths in Benghazi in the first weeks of the anti-Qaddafi revolution.
And then, in 2014, in Kiev’s Freedom Square during Ukraine’s great democratic revolt against Putin’s Eurasian order.
And, between those two events, in November 2012 in Washington, DC, where Robert Kagan had invited us to the stage of the “Hero Summit” organized by Tina Brown and Newsweek, for a probing discussion.
From those encounters I retain an image of wisdom, courage, and honor that make John McCain, as the Spanish say of the noblest of their knights, a “Grandee of America.”
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher and writer whose works deal broadly with issues of human dignity. In word and deed he carries on the tradition of the engaged intellectual established by André Malraux, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus.