Sen. John McCain of Arizona has a message for his fellow Republicans: You are accountable to the American people, not to President Donald Trump.
In a Thursday editorial to The Washington Post, McCain strongly denounced the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and clearly established that "Most of us share Heather Heyer’s values, not the depravity of the man who took her life." Heyer became a national hero after she was murdered by one of the white supremacists at the rally.
After discussing the need for bipartisan cooperation when confronting the major issues facing Americans today, McCain described Trump as "a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct."
Although he deferred to Trump's position of authority from a strictly constitutional perspective and encouraged cooperation when it was possible, McCain added that "we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people." He also urged his colleagues to remember that "we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation."
McCain and Trump have a notoriously uneasy relationship. After McCain criticized Trump in 2015, the then-candidate attacked the Arizona senator's war record, claiming that "he’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."
Although McCain was reluctant to speak out against Trump during the 2016 campaign (most likely because McCain himself faced a tough Republican primary), in 2017 he emerged as one of the president's fiercest Republican critics. In June McCain told The Guardian that Trump's erratic diplomatic behavior had sent America's allies the message that "“America doesn’t want to lead. They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica."
In July, when it was revealed that members of Trump's campaign had met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton during the election, McCain commented that "Another shoe just dropped. There'll be many more shoes that drop." And of course, McCain rocked the political world later that month by voting "No" on Trump's final Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, thereby dooming a cornerstone of the new president's domestic agenda.