Senator John McCain again exposed the rift between the Republican party establishment and President Donald Trump Monday, railing against what he condemned as “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in a high-profile speech.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain said, in an emotional acceptance speech for the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal. The Arizona Republican and Vietnam War veteran was presented with the honor by former Vice President Joe Biden, for a “lifetime of sacrifice and service” to the country.
“We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did,” McCain said. “We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
According to CNN, McCain said that to “fear” the world the U.S. has led for the better part of a century, “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe” and “refuse the obligations of international leadership … for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems” is unpatriotic.
McCain’s comments came only days after President Trump unilaterally tried to deconstruct the UN deal on taming Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They also come against the background of repeated signs of impatience at the global trading order, seen most recently in an Intenational Trade Commission decision to impose huge import tariffs on the CSeries regional jets made by Canada’s Bombardier.
Although McCain never mentioned the president by name, his repeated clashes with Trump over recent months left little doubt where the criticism was directed. McCain was a strong advocate of the Trans Pacific Partnership that Trump pulled the U.S. out of immediately after taking office. Along with other dissenting Republican senators, he had also played a central role in frustrating Trump’s promise of an immediate repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.