COMMENT:

The USA could not afford to lose Senator John McCain at this moment in its history. McCain, who has died aged 81, has been a lone beacon of decency and dignity in a Republican Party that is now completely dominated by Donald Trump.

McCain did not cower at the President's pull on Republican voters and his ability to use it to scare legislators seeking re-election. McCain called out the President for every unpresidential word, deed or tweet and has made his dying message a pointed one.

"We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe," he said in letter to Americans read by a family spokesman after the Senator's death. "We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force of change they have always been."

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Trump took umbrage naturally, as McCain knew he would. Clearly the Senator did not want this President's goodwill in death. He knew there was not much risk Trump would find the capacity to be truly magnanimous and rise above a parting shot from an old foe. That would have required more class than this President possesses.

Trump duly issued an expression of sympathy for the family, saying nothing about the Senator's contribution to his country, rejected advice from staff to say something more generous and would not even lower the White House flag to half mast until a public outcry, particularly from McCain's fellow Vietnam veterans, forced these gestures from him.

McCain probably would not have cared. He had made it clear he would prefer former Presidents George W Bush and Barrack Obama to speak at his funeral and they will be honoured to do so. For these few days as McCain lies in state in Phoenix, Arizona, his home state capital and then Washington DC, it will be possible to see American politics as it used to be — Democrats as well as Republicans acknowledging loyalties and qualities that transcend partisan rivalries and recognise the goodness in each other.

It will be 10 years in November since Obama was elected President. That night the defeated Republican candidate, John McCain, made a concession speech that showed he was as happy as any American to discover they could elect an African-American President. It seems a long time ago.

The extreme polarity that has poisoned American politics today began before Obama was elected and was reflected in McCain's need of a running mate like Sarah Palin. During the Obama years it got worse. Obama was not extreme in any sense but he was too "liberal", too cautious, too reasonable for the backlash he faced in small-town America from talk radio, "tea party" tax-cutters and Donald Trump, who questioned even his birthright.

It has been painful for responsible politicians everywhere to see Trump dishonour the presidency almost every day. John McCain represented the America the world admired. May it soon return.