One of the prominent books of my youth was John Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.” One of the essays recalled a senator who decided he could not support his party’s effort to impeach Andrew Johnson.

Another book of that time, perhaps a decade older, was made into a movie with Humphrey Bogart as the captain: “The Caine Mutiny.” The mutiny was in reaction to the captain running his Navy ship, the Caine, dangerously across the path of a hurricane. The captain had a personality flaw — most of the time he seemed capable if uninspiring, but in moments of stress, he could freeze, or fly into a foolish course of action, determined to show no one could put anything over on him.

I’ve been watching the carrying-on in the Senate, with two senators standing firm against their party’s leadership, men who were determined that no one could put anything over on them, the Republican leader and a master of Senate procedures, Mitch McConnell, and the president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence.

Then the action: John McCain returns from his cancer ward to ensure that the business of the Senate could be completed and no one could say, “Well, we would have prevailed in McCain had been here and helped us get the bill onto the floor.” He showed up and he did help get it onto the floor.

And then, when the final desperate vote was taken, he said, “No.” Led by Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, the three of them stood and were counted, not by trickery, not by absence. From Hawaii, where she was being treated for cancer, Sen. Mazie Hirono flew in to record another “No.”

We may think: “The McCain Mutiny,” but praise belongs to the fifty-one who prevailed.

Jim Perkins


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