Sen. John McCain, a decorated war hero, stood before Congress on Tuesday a very sick man. As he cast the 49th vote to advance the latest Republican health-care bill, I'm sure he wished optics were on his side.
But they weren't.
Even though he tried to chide legislators about their unsportsmanlike behavior, he couldn't deny the obvious: Good health insurance saved his life.
McCain's arrival on The Hill Tuesday was a visceral visual reminder of that. His navy suit dwarfed him. His voice quivered in spots during a speech designed to be a forceful finger-wagging to his fellow U.S. senators. His left eye was surrounded with postoperative bruises. And on top of his brow was a jagged scar, a very visible remnant of the brain surgery he had just days ago to remove a malignant tumor.
This is not about fashion; this is all about how things look. And things look really bad here.
What do you do when what your look like runs counter to your political message? Do you rethink where you're coming from? Do you dig down into your humanity and consider what your life would be like if you were diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, but you didn't have insurance to pay for a surgery that might possibly prolong your life?
Do you soldier on and hold tight to the party line because you know you received excellent care? So what if the Senate may now go on to debate the logistics of repealing the Affordable Care Act without possibly first replacing it? Your life will go on and comfortably so. So what if an estimated 17 million Americans could possibly lose insurance coverage by the end of the year? And if a whopping 32 million lose their insurance and see already high premiums double, it's not the end of the world, right?
McCain's doctors deserve praise for finding this deadly cancer during a routine visit. A routine visit he was able to afford. A routine visit that saved his life. It's a sad day in American history when a political leader of his magnitude can so visibly displays his own access to health care without doing more to make sure the rest of us have it, too.