Sep 2, 2018

D.C. dreams of saner times

Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Amid the Trump-shaming at the emotional Washington National Cathedral sendoff for Sen. John McCain, the televised eulogies and private conversations reflected a broader dream that the United States is still capable of a saner politics.

The big picture: "We were reminded by his funeral that we have been, and could again be, a nation based on values like honor, truth-telling, service, humility, respect, and kindness," Walter Isaacson, author of a shelf of historical biographies, told me.

  • "That was the last gift McCain gave us."
  • One of the day's most socially viral moments was a bipartisan gesture that wasn't even on the program: TV coverage captured President George W. Bush trying to unobtrusively pass a piece of candy from Laura Bush, on his left, to Michelle Obama, on his right.

President Barack Obama captured the mood with the single word "small":

  • "So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage."
  • "We never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other man’s patriotism, or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team."

Obama spoke right after Bush. Both had vanquished McCain for president, but got a call from the senator in his waning months, asking them to eulogize him.

  • The unusual invitation gave Obama the line of the day: "It showed his irreverence — his sense of humor, little bit of a mischievous streak. What better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience?"
  • Bush called McCain "a man with a code": "John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: We are better than this. America is better than this."

Reality interlude: This is likely to be a late-summer fling. Every single sign heading into President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign is that the rhetoric and reality of politics are only going to get worse.

  • Demography and technology are fueling the Trump brand of tribal politics, and his governing choices have left him more dependent on stoking his own forces rather than bringing in new swaths of support.

The day's only mid-speech applause went to Meghan McCain, who gave fiery remarks through tears: "The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great."

  • She certainly followed some of McCain's last advice: "When my father got sick, when I asked him what he wanted me to do with this eulogy, he said, 'Show them how tough you are.'"

One of the sweeter McCain memories came from former Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. The two senators had traveled the world together as part of congressional delegations. McCain always regretted not naming Lieberman to a historic bipartisan presidential ticket, instead crassly picking Sarah Palin.

  • "One of John's favorite cities in the world was Jerusalem," Lieberman recalled. "And one of his favorite things to do there was to stand on the balcony with [Sen. Lindsey Graham] and me of our hotel looking out at the old city and discussing all of the religious and political history that happened there over the centuries."

So there are causes larger than ourselves, as McCain constantly reminded his audiences, particularly young people.

  • Now we just have to remember what they are.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 859,556 — Total deaths: 42,332 — Total recoveries: 178,300.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 189,510 — Total deaths: 4,076 — Total recoveries: 7,109.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 4,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 4,000 people in the U.S. — with over 1,000 deaths reported in New York City alone, per Johns Hopkins data. The number of deaths are still much lower than those reported in Italy, Spain and China.

Of note: Hours earlier, President Trump noted it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the novel coronavirus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place. "They are going to be facing a war zone," he said of medical workers.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 14 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 858,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday night, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health