Thank you, Senator John McCain

As the founder and former international spokesperson of Montreal based civil rights advocacy group, The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter, I would like to publicly pay my respects to the late Senator John McCain, who passed away this weekend after a heroic and dignified battle with cancer.

Senator McCain was a Conservative American politician, a prominent member of the Republican Party, who ran for the American Presidency on two separate occasions. His name, his courage, and his dedicated service to the cause of justice, and civil liberties is cherished by tens of millions not only in America, but all around the world. I would like to speak on behalf of those, who cherish his name in a small Central European country, called Hungary, and among those Hungarians, who have been forced to flee from their homeland by Hungary’s autocratic ruler, Viktor Orbán.

I would like to begin my own hommage to this Republican politician, by quoting a journalist who knew him well: Washington Post correspondent, Josh Rogin. (For his full essay see this page.)

„I’ll never forget the time the McCain delegation stopped in Budapest in 2014 on the way to a conference in Munich. We only spent five hours on the ground. But John McCain accomplished more .. in those five hours than most senators do in a month. McCain wanted to see for himself what was true and what was not. That day he met with Hungarian opposition leaders, heard them out about Hungary’s slide into autocracy and promised that Americans were watching. He then met with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, scolded him for his autocratic moves and said America was watching. Both sides got the message. His lifelong mission was to speak truth to dictators or give voice to the oppressed.”

John McCain’s calling of Viktor Orbán a „neo-fascist thug” on the floor of the American Senate once he returned from visiting Hungary (See here. ) made huge waves globally. It reflected the views held by tens of millions inside the Western Alliance, not to mention the hundreds of thousands inside Hungary, whose rights to justice, the rule of law and sustainable economic development have been hijacked by Vladimir Putin’s Hungarian disciple. Orbán publicly idolizes the Russian, Chinese and Turkish “model” of governance, where transparency, checks and balances on centralized power have been eliminated and replaced with rampant corruption and civil rights abuses, wrapped up in “fake news”. According to the last survey by Freedom House, (See here.) the Orbán government engineered the sharpest retreat from the principles of Democratic governance among members of the EU. In fact, he is the political trailblazer for all of Europe’s neo-fascist political leaders. Many of them, like Holland’s Geert Wilders, have a residence in Hungary, in order to be closer to their “Messiah.” Sweden’s Kent Ekeroth has just announced he is looking for an apartment in Budapest. Neo-fascist parties sing Orbán’s praises in neighboring Poland, Austria, Slovakia, and now Italy. Orbán is the template for alt-right, Christian white-supremacists in the United States, the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia.

The Hungarian autocrat shares the unique distinction of being a hero to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke as well as to the President of the United States. In a meeting with Hungary’s Ambassador to America, Trump reportedly hailed the Hungarian autocrat as a “strong and brave leader”. David Duke shouted „Viva Orbán” for what he sees as „The Hungarian leader’s successful resistance to the Zionist conspiracy to destroy European civilization.” Steve Bannon, Trumps chief campaign strategist, on a recent visit to Europe identified Orbán as his political hero. Jeff Session, who headed up Trump’s Foreign Policy and National Security Group during the campaign wrote this warm endorsement of Orbán during the home stretch of the American Presidential campaign:  “Hungary serves now as a global beacon for the power of freedom, democracy and human rights.” J.D. Gordon, deputy to Sessions on the Foreign Policy Group, and the de facto boss of Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Joe Schmitz, took the first plane to Budapest after Trump was elected to the White House in November, 2016 to publicly thank Trump’s pro-Russian Hungarian backers with the following words: “The team of President Elect Donald Trump deeply admires Hungary’s leader. With Mr. Trump in the White House, a new chapter will begin in American-Hungarian relations. Mr. Trump and Mr. Orbán will become great friends.” (See: Mandiner.hu December 1, 2016; The Budapest Business Journal. December 2, 2016 and The Budapest Beacon. December 18, 2016.)

Orbán’s “visceral” language is identical to the one used by Donald Trump. They both undermine the public’s capacity to distinguish reality from illusion, facts from fiction. It’s a language that is designed to mobilize voters in a world in which people are increasingly at sea, rudderless and angry. It is the ability to manufacture messages that resonate with our emotions, the ability to combine these emotional messages with “fake news” – hearsay and innuendoes – and to transmit them through the internet, that is enabling a new breed of “political players”, to slip under the radar of rationality, and capture larger and larger shares of the public’s attention. It’s this uncanny “skill set”, exploited by Trump, by the Mullahs of Radical Islam, by the former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin and his Central European cohorts, like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, along with the new crop of right wing neo-fascist “players” in Western Europe, that is taking humanity for a ride it shall never forget. It is against this gang of “neo-fascist thugs” that Senator McCain raised his voice, and we should never forget his courageous deed.

John McCain refused to throw Hungary’s democrats under the bus. Donald Trump has no such qualms, as we’ve seen from his praise of tyrants from Russia, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia or Hungary. Republicans and Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections, and democrats everywhere in the world should remember McCains courageous and accurate words about the affinity fraud that is unfolding in Hungary, and moving westward full speed ahead, with Donald Trump’s blessing. (See here.)

“Since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came to power in 2010, antidemocratic constitutional changes have been enacted, the independence of Hungary’s courts have been restricted, nongovernmental organizations raided and civil society prosecuted, the freedom of the press curtailed, and much more. These actions threaten the principles of institutional independence and checks and balances that are the hallmark of democratic governance and have left me deeply concerned about the erosion of democratic norms in Hungary.

“These concerns are shared by many. A ruling by the Venice Commission in 2013 found that Prime Minister Orbán’s constitutional changes threaten democracy and rule of law in Hungary, stating that the amendments ‘contradict principles of the Fundamental Law and European standards,’ and ‘leads to a risk that it may negatively affect all three pillars of the Council of Europe: the separation of powers as an essential tenet of democracy, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.’

“The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Committee to Protect Journalists have condemned Hungary’s media laws, saying that they create a climate of fear and media self-censorship, even after critical changes were made to account for previous complaints from the European Commission. ‘The changes to the Hungarian media law only add to the existing concerns over the curbing of critical or differing views in the country,’ said Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE’s representative on Freedom of the Media.

“The European Central Bank has repeatedly warned that Prime Minister Orbán’s government is encroaching on the independence of its central bank, calling for him to respect the independence of monetary policymakers and condemning attempts by the government to threaten central bankers with dismissal if they oppose government policy.

“And just last month, six Hungarians were banned from entering the United States over alleged corruption. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires André Goodfriend reportedly called the ban a warning to reverse policies that threaten democratic values, citing ‘negative disappointing trends’ in Hungary and a ‘weakening of rule of law, attacks on civil society, [and] a lack of transparency.’

“Democracy without respect for rule of law, separation of powers, and the protection of economic, civil, and religious liberties is not only inadequate, it is dangerous. It brings with it the erosion of liberty, the abuse of power, ethnic divisions, and economic restrictions – all of which we have witnessed in Hungary since Prime Minister Orbán took power. Prime Minister Orbán has justified his actions by calling for a new state model based on ‘illiberal democracy,’ but his vision defies the core values of the European Union and NATO. These alliances are founded not only on the principle of democracy, but also rule of law and the protection of individual liberty and fundamental freedoms. All members must remain committed to these values.”

Those who wish to see their societies follow the path of justice, the rule of law, and sustainable economic development wish a peaceful journey to the great American politician. They share the feelings of Senator McCain’s colleague, Senator Graham, who had this to say to all of the above, in Josh Rogin’s Washington Post article: Here’s the bad news for dictators and despots and thugs.. There’s a whole army of McCain-ites coming.”

Thank you, and farewell Senator McCain. May your soul rest in peace. We shall overcome ! For us, it’s you, not the man in the White House, who is the Voice of America !

András Göllner

9 Comments

  1. The author has praised a real hawk. He was the strongest supporter of Bush’s war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  2. America lost a decent and principled man. Did you hear his final address to the American people, read posthumously in Washington? Every word was a reminder of the civility that we stand to lose in our politics today.

    Rest in peace, Senator McCain. You will be remembered.

  3. @ Bendy Goose

    Thank you for recognizing my ability to rise above the divide of petty partisan politics. I trust you will agree with me, that when a longtime representative of the people passes away, we should focus on his or her service to the community rather than on his or her weaknesses.

    If Senator McCain was a hawk, pray tell me what kind of a bird is Viktor Orbán, Vladimir Putin, or Donald Trump ? Orbán has sent Hungarian troops to the Middle East, and has just about doubled Hungary’s military expenditures on US weaponry to buy his way into the White House. What would you call Putin and Assad, whose troops have murdered hundreds of thousands of the Syrian Middle Class for wanting to enjoy the benefits of their civil rights ? And what kind of a bird is the Donald ? He talked about carpet bombing civilians in Iraq during his campaign. He has vastly increased the earnings of the American military industrial complex with his last budget. He has spent the summer bragging about his feat of sharply increasing the military expenditure of NATO allies not to mention that of the Saudis, who not only had a hand in the attack on the World Trade Center, but have, to all intents and purposes declared war on Canada a few weeks ago ? If McCain is a hawk, what kind of bird is the Donald ? Is he a duck or just a tweety bird ?

  4. Pierre Divenyi says:

    Yes. And how sad…

  5. György Lázár says:

    It is inappropriate to speak ill of the dead when mourning and Senator McCain was a remarkable politician with a truly amazing life. He survived Vietnam and made it against all odds. It is the right thing to praise his virtues but we should also remember that the Senator’s ideas, his running mate Sarah Palin were soundly rejected by the American people in 2008. His political persona was intriguing yet unacceptable for most of us…

    • Robert Morrison says:

      Once I agree with you. “It is inappropriate to speak ill of the dead” and that “His political persona was intriguing yet unacceptable for most of us…”

      Interesting how his death can bring the two of us to common grounds. Strange isn’t it?

  6. Pingback: John McCain’s comments on Orbán and his own domestic political legacy

  7. @ György Lázár

    We have to be careful with how we choose our words. Senator McCain was acceptable by most of his constituents in Arizona in 6 consecutive Senatorial elections. We vcan’t take that away from him. A small majority of Americans did not bet on him in 2 Presidential contests, but McCain found both of his political conquerors, Bush, and Obama, acceptable. He had the stature, and the civility to call the man who defeated him at the polls, HIS President. I am not an American citizen, but if I were one, I would not have voted for Mr. McCain. But I accept him now, especially now, in the hour of his passage to his final resting place. He was a fellow human being, who was able to hit both the high notes and the low ones. In my books, focusing on his high notes at this time is more dignified than, focusing on his low ones.

  8. Senator John McCain is a man who fought for his Land, Orbán is a man who fight only for himself. Because of that Hungary have a low level on, education, health and culture and a high level of self-pity.

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