That was the week that was: A patriot rising, a house of cards falling, and a democracy surviving
Ever recall the 1962/3 satirical TV show, presented by David Frost (you know, the British broadcast journalist that famously interviewed Richard Nixon in 1977, and whose interviews of him later became the subject of Frost/Nixon in 2006), That Was the Week That Was? The show was briefly picked up by NBC but had a more direct impact on sketches we saw on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” during its run from 1968-1973, and even with “SNL’s” ‘Update’ segments. But enough of this tidbit of unimportant television history; it’s recalled only as a springboard for our country having had its own, though more sobering, that-was-the-week-that-was these past seven days. This past Saturday, the nation lost its last lion of the U.S. Senate, Senator John Sydney McCain, III. He died after battling for over a year glioblastoma, the deadly brain cancer that also took the life of Teddy Kennedy nine years ago to that very day. Within these seven days, we also saw the conviction of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager on eight counts of criminal wrongdoing (one vote away from being found guilty on the other ten counts as charged), and the guilty plea entered of public record in a Manhattan federal court from Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, implicating the President in criminal wrongdoing.
We also saw grants of immunity in this same week provided to Trump’s long-time business friend and head of AMI (which publishes the National Enquirer among its many tawdry publications), David Pecker, and Trump’s accountant, Allen Weisselberg. Lest we not also forget announcements pertaining to the New York Attorney General’s continued investigation into the Trump Foundation and the Manhattan District Attorney’s examination of the Trump Organization for criminal activity. And finally, we certainly cannot forget what started it all: Michael Avenatti’s civil lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court against Trump and Cohen for the hush money payment made to his porn star actress-client, Stephanie Clifford, a/k/a Stormy Daniels.
Trump's "House of Cards" appears to be falling, perhaps much like commencing Humpty Dumpty's great fall. An American democracy, as many have said before, demands with its wheels of justice that grind slowly that no person is to be above the law, including the president. Concomitantly, our very brand of governance also provides for those that serve it well and honorably with distinction like Mr. McCain to be noted for posterity and remembered with praise.
Notwithstanding anything that can be said about a future judgment day cast upon Trump and his camp in the days, weeks or months ahead, it is McCain’s legacy that rightfully takes center stage now. His life’s celebration deserves the nation’s attention over the next several days, with his first lying in state in his beloved Arizona, then in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, and then being laid to rest in Annapolis from where his naval career began.
Flags are flying at half-staff. Even Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader across the aisle, has recommended the renaming of the Russell Senate Office Building where McCain held court in his own office. Certainly, such a tribute will keep the flame of remembrance burning brightly to honor McCain’s six decades of public service, including 31 years as a US senator, and years of a military career, concluding with being recognized as one of our nation’s war heroes. (But in this regard, hopefully, we won’t forget the public service of the other lion of the Senate in recent memory, Senator Kennedy.)
Though not of his political persuasion, this writer had a personal experience with Senator McCain that goes back well over a decade but worth recounting with his passing.
During the time when there was much discussion in Congress about a federal Patient’s Bill of Rights, and how it might affect efforts by individual states to ensure affordability and accessibility of health care for its citizens, I was requested by Senator McCain and his office, together with Senators Kennedy and Graham (D-Fl.) and several members of the House, to author an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court in two cases, Aetna Health, Inc. et al vs. Davila and Cigna Healthcare of Texas, Inc. vs. Calad, et al. The intention of the brief was to have these Members inform the justices that it was Congress’ intention to establish minimum health insurance patient protection standards as part of any consideration of a Patient’s Bill of Rights, aside and apart from a federal pension law, known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Little did I know at the time when I was asked to scribe this writing that it was to become a harbinger for McCain’s thinking in later years on the proper place for health care in our country and for its citizens when he voted “thumb down” at around 1 am on a late July 2017 day-perhaps knowing already of his progressing and incurable diagnosis-thus causing defeat to his Republican Senate colleagues’ efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with its so-called repeal and replace legislation.
But what McCain did with this iconic gesture was but in microcosm of his free-thinking, independent attitude as a legislative maverick, willing to take the wrath of colleagues and friends alike, even the leader of his own party and current President, by putting what he perceived to be the needs of the country first and before party, even joining those on the other side of the aisle, like a Kennedy who he worked with often, to make his positions carry the day.
McCain also chastised his fellow Senate Republicans in another speech upon his return to the Senate, after the surgical intervention that led to the diagnosis of cancer and within days before his thumb down vote. He assailed them for not following regular order before passing any legislation. Perhaps it was his own terminal disease and its treatment that was an important influencing factor, but his thinking on the nation’s citizenry being able to afford and access health care like the ACA was intended to do, and still does, was of a paramount concern that required hearings and experts coming before his chamber before the passage of any such significant legislation.
Yes, the most recent seven days now gone by is history, but certainly a that-was-the-week-that-was for us all that will be etched in memory as a period not soon to be forgotten anytime soon.