United States senators carry the courtesy title “honorable,” though too few of them probably really merit it. The U.S. Congress often reflects the partisan rancour and, indeed, discourtesy that characterizes U.S. politics. This was famously illustrated by Representative Joe Wilson, a Republican, who screeched, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during his health-care speech. There is one U.S. politician, however, who has earned the title: the Hon. John McCain.
Senator McCain on Wednesday ignored party divisions, stood up to influential Rep. Michele Bachmann and other Republican lawmakers and defended a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. In a letter to the deputy inspector-general of the State Department, Rep. Bachmann and the others suggested that Huma Abedin, a Muslim who is married to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and a conspiracy to gain access “to top Obama administration officials” and demanded a probe.
It is, on the face of it, absurd innuendo, yet it is the sort of filth that’s sometimes peddled in Washington and can take on a life of its own. Such campaigns can destroy careers.
Sen. McCain did the honourable thing. He took to the floor of the Senate, in the midst of an extremely polarized presidential election year, and defended Ms. Abedin. He called Rep. Bachmann’s charges “an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honourable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.”
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,” Sen. McCain said, adding the attacks “have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now.”
He concluded by calling Ms. Abedin “a friend.”
It may not be enough to make the world forget his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008, but it was an act of political courage and, frankly, humanity from the honourable Senator.