Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, likes to talk about the sense of responsibility and privilege he feels in his role near the apex of American public life. “I’m here to serve the country,” he declared at one particularly laughable moment during his pornographic rant last week to The New Yorker, in which he assaulted his own colleagues, threatening to fire some of them and unleash the F.B.I. on others.
Americans glimpsed a rather different idea of public service in the wee hours of Friday when Senator John McCain turned his right thumb down and blocked his party’s attempt at policy making by partisan riot, its farcical scramble to attack the health care system with no vision for how to remake it.
Mr. McCain, of course, is known to use plenty of blue language himself. Like Mr. Scaramucci and the new communications director’s boss, Mr. McCain thinks of himself as a maverick who is not bound by political convention, much less mere etiquette. Also like Mr. Scaramucci and President Trump, the senator can sometimes make a virtue of his crudeness by applauding himself for straight talk and authenticity.
That’s about where this strained comparison has to end or it will simply burst apart. Unlike the communications director and Mr. Trump, Mr. McCain does not equate service to country with service to the president. He has a sense of honor, and with it a consciousness of his own failings. “Sometimes I have let my passion rule my reason,” Mr. McCain said during his moving remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, after returning from brain surgery and a diagnosis of brain cancer. “Sometimes I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.”
Mr. McCain went on to call for qualities for which this White House has shown nothing but contempt, urging his colleagues to “rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other.” He extolled “the necessity of compromise.”
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet,” he implored the Senate. “To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”