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Our Rulers’ ChiCainery

Our Rulers’ ChiCainery

Iraq War Dead

John McCain is buried, may his philosophy soon follow.

Now they lay his body down
Sad old men who run this town

“Kings,” Steely Dan (Walter Becker and Donald Fagen), 1972

Novelists can align their stories with whatever deeper truth they’re trying to convey. Real life is seldom so neat, but the death of John McCain can neither be separated from nor understood without appreciating its symbolic elements. The mourning functionaries and hagiographic media that laid McCain to rest symbolically buried, without realizing it, the philosophy he so epitomized. Send not to know for whom the bell tolled, it tolled for what they so fervently believe.

John McCain venerated the state, of which he was a product. His grandfather and father were admirals in the navy. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy and spent his entire career working for the government. His philosophy was consistent: there are no constraints on the state. As was his ambition: the accretion of state and personal power. Championing government both at home and abroad, he achieved bipartisan splendor.

He never met a US war, actual or prospective, he didn’t love. (Although he sort of admitted after the fact that Iraq might have been a mistake, and he came out against torture.) His was the deciding vote against repealing Obamacare. That put him at the Olympian summit of uniparty bipartisanship: the indefatigable champion of the warfare state, the welfare state, the surveillance state, and anything else the state might want to do.

That is why the flags flew at half-mast, his body lay in state in the US Capitol, Democrats and Republicans issued gushing commemoratives, and the mainstream media flowed with his praises. Powerful people’s florid eulogies were the verbal equivalent of the military’s twenty-one gun salute. McCain was the exemplar of the uniparty’s only consistent principle: the expansion of government and its power.

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