Last week, I was intrigued by all the fanfare attendant upon the national farewell to the late Sen. John McCain. I have written in this space that Mr. McCain and I were friends who spoke many times, but generally only about the issues upon which we agreed — abortion, immigration and torture.
On those issues, he often stood at odds with most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. They are opposed to abortion in name only (they will not lift a finger to stop or slow it), prefer judging the moral worth of individuals on the basis of where they were born, and think that torture is wrong unless the victim is a bad guy or a foreigner or has information the government wants.
Moral relativism is the coin of their realm.
On those issues, Mr. McCain stood steadfast, no matter the political or personal consequences. For that steadfastness, and with respect to those issues, his behavior was heroic. A hero does not lack fear. He or she proceeds into its face nevertheless, heedless of the consequences to self.
For reasons he has never adequately explained, President Donald Trump rejected Mr. McCain’s heroism and mocked Mr. McCain’s time of torment in a North Vietnamese prison. That mockery was brought to full measure at Mr. McCain’s funeral by the senator’s daughter, my friend and former Fox News colleague Meghan McCain. She told the members of the Washington establishment who had gathered, sans the president, at her father’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral — why the federal government founded a cathedral is another question for another time — that her father manifested greatness and that Mr. Trump manifests cheapness.
Then the two men who each in his own way personally stopped Mr. McCain’s efforts to become president — George W. Bush in the Republican primaries in 2000 and Barack Obama in the general election in 2008 — delivered similar accolades of Mr. McCain, complete with veiled rebukes of Mr. Trump.
On its face, the audience in that government-founded church, establishment to the core, was adoring Mr. McCain’s memory and mourning his loss. But the establishment is filled with hypocrites.
This is the same establishment that gave us the unguarded borders and airways of 9/11 and blamed its failures on foreigners. It gave us the useless, fruitless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the human and monumental destruction they wrought.
It gave us the secret torture of foreign captives and their indefinite incarceration without trial. It gave us warrantless spying on innocent Americans — at first in secret and then openly and under color of law — in direct defiance of the Fourth Amendment. It gave us the 2008 financial crisis, which it cured by borrowing billions of dollars and giving the money to those who had caused it. And — as if all that were not enough — it gave us a $13.5 trillion collective increase in government debt during the Bush and Obama years and the secret but repetitive use of drones to assassinate foreigners and Americans overseas.
Has any of this enhanced your life, liberty or property?
As much as I appreciated the kind words about my late friend and the polite reception those words received, it made me think about how dangerous to life, liberty and property the government has become, how unfaithful to the Constitution have been those in whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping and how unashamed of their misdeeds are those who have caused all this.
Nearly all of the present assaults to liberty can be laid at the feet of the Republicans and Democrats who were sitting in that government-founded church in the nation’s capital and listening to the praise of John McCain.
But that establishment crowd also gave us another event it would rather forget and for which it will never accept blame or claim credit — the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. He ran as the anti-establishment candidate, and he ran against the collective mindset of those proud of themselves in that “national” church. He condemned the wars they caused. He mocked their borrowing and spending. He attacked the secretive mindset of their intelligence and law enforcement communities. And the voters rewarded him.
Yet he, too, uses drones and missiles to kill and does so in foreign lands without any declarations of war. He, too, has borrowed money and spent it at nearly a wartime rate. And he, too, has continued the spying on innocent Americans. In those respects, he has become what he condemned — the government establishment proud of itself sitting in a government-founded church.
Add to this, he has mocked the rule of law, praised those charged with and convicted of violating it, tormented those charged with enforcing it, distorted tales about his personal behavior, and wreaked havoc on innocent farmers by making the sale of their goods too expensive for foreign consumers.
His presence was in that church as powerfully as if he had physically been there.
The bitterness about Mr. Trump was silently expressed by those who brought him to power and now cooperate with his behavior or pretend that they don’t. The mindset of the establishment continues to be that the government can right any wrong, regulate any behavior, borrow and spend any amount of money, and build a church in utter defiance of the First Amendment, the U.S. Constitution — which is supposed to limit the government, not unleash it — be damned.
Ultimately, we are responsible for the folks we have elected and the things they have done, whether secretive, hypocritical or in our faces. Ultimately, we have the government we deserve. Will we change this before it is too late?
• Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is a senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel. He has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution.
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