Why I’m Angry at the Media Coverage of John McCain’s Death: A Brief Rant

Susan Bordo
Aug 27, 2018 · 2 min read

I’ve been getting angrier and angrier over the media’s coverage of John McCain’s death, but not because of anything said about McCain.

“Who do we have to look to now?”the pundits keep asking. “Where have the great leaders gone?”

They cite McCain’s “unique” accomplishments. He saw the threat of Putin when others did not. He was a fighter, but never held a grudge. He worked across the aisle. He rose from defeat after defeat to continue to serve. He was both an optimist and a pragmatist. He gets compared to Bobby Kennedy, and Jon Meachem, author of the humbly titled “The Soul of America” and frequent commentator on Morning Joe, lists a dozen distinguished white male senators who, like McCain, worked behind the scenes to get things done, often with their political enemies. Meachem wonders where such senators are now. He and the other pundits look around, shaking their heads at the absence of such character, such a record of unstinting service today.

Is it because our image of great leadership is still indelibly male? Or is it simply impossible for the media to dislodge from their brains the faux Hillary Clinton that they helped create? Of course, it’s both.

They contrast McCain and Trump — and the contrast is well justified, as is their despair over the Trump-enabling politicians who now dominate the GOP.

But do any of them have a word to say about the fact that as Trump rose — through means both illegal and illegitimate — one of the greatest servants of our country was being trashed every day? That we could in fact have had the leader that they now bemoan is absent from the scene?

She is still here, Jon Meachem. And greater in integrity, persistence, accomplishment than any of the white male senators you compare to McCain and praise as serving “the better angels” of our nature, the “soul of America,” the great white male past that you mourn the loss of.

As I write this, I hear John McCain referred to as “the most important figure of the last fifty years who was not president.”

Is that how the history books will tell it?
We’ll see.

Susan Bordo is a feminist scholar and cultural critic. She is the author of many books, most recently The Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Untangling the Political Forces, Media Culture, and Assault on Fact That Decided the 2016 Election.

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Cultural historian, media critic, feminist scholar. Author, most recently, of The Destruction of Hillary Clinton

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