The Rev. Jesse Jackson defended the honor of Arizona Sen. John McCain during an hour-long interview Wednesday at The Arizona Republic.
Not surprisingly, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and two-time presidential candidate had little good to say about President Donald Trump, whom he denounced as the “lying king.”
But like many Democrats these days, he found himself sticking up for McCain, a Republican whose many tiffs with Trump seemingly leave him out of sync with others in his party.
“One of the heroes of our time is Sen. McCain, a man who served in war. He didn’t dodge the draft like the president did,” Jackson said.
“Agree or disagree, he’s a man of great dignity and decency. To say he’s not a hero because he got caught, there’s something pathological, there’s something sick about that,” Jackson said.
Jackson was referencing then-candidate Trump’s mocking of McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. (“He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” Trump said in July 2015.)
Jackson was in Phoenix as part of National Education Conference of the A. Philip Randolph Institute at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak.
As he often has, Jackson connected politics, race, culture and sports. Trump reflects the continuation of America’s painful and inconsistent history on race relations and sports, Jackson said.
He noted, for example, the different responses to different black sports champions.
In 1910, boxer Jack Johnson’s victory over James Jeffries in the racially tinged “Fight of the Century” triggered race riots across the country that left 20 people dead.
By contrast, Jesse Owens was hailed as a hero for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
Jackson didn’t mention that earlier this year Trump issued a presidential pardon of Johnson, who was convicted of transporting a woman — a white woman he married — across state borders for immoral purposes.
That act granted the clemency McCain had first sought from former President Barack Obama in 2009.
The nation’s conflicting feelings on race and sports continues to this day, Jackson said, pointing to Colin Kaepernick’s curtailed career after he began kneeling during the national anthem. It is an act of protest using the religious action of kneeling that Trump has repeatedly denounced as unpatriotic.
“To kneel for the American flag is to say, ‘America, honor your promises,'” Jackson said.
SOURCE: Ronald J. Hansen