CNN’s New Day on Friday promoted the gushy new HBO documentary on John McCain, with substitute host David Briggs lamenting that President Trump “perpetuated...that John McCain is in a sense almost a traitor to the Republican Party.” Peter Kunhardt, the HBO film’s creator, bizarrely claimed the hallmark of McCain’s career is “the consistency of his message.” But he also said the “culmination” of the film is McCain flip-flopping on the repeal of Obamacare.
In 2016, McCain ran for re-election on repealing the health-care mandate. But in 2017, after his cancer diagnosis, he voted against repeal. But CNN promoted McCain as heroically unifying:
DAVID BRIGGS: All right, Peter, if you look through John McCain's life, a pilot, a prisoner of war who refused early release, a congressman, a senator, a presidential candidate, is service the common thread throughout his life?
PETER KUNHARDT: Service and country above party and courage. He's always had the courage to stand up to whatever the -- whatever the issue is or the person is who he's against. So he's -- one of the things we found most interesting is the consistency of his message. You know, what he's saying today to kind of bring the Senate together resonates today because of all the turmoil in Washington, but he's been saying it for decades. And if you go back in his career, he's been very consistent.
Rubbish. As Robert Robb summarized in the Arizona Republic:
This is one instance in which President Trump's criticisms of McCain are well-founded. McCain did run, as Trump is drumming, on a strong repeal-and-replace platform. In fact, it was the principal distinction he drew with his Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick. He would vote to repeal Obamacare. She would not. McCain did not say that he would vote to repeal Obamacare, provided Democrats agreed. If he had, his Republican primary with Kelli Ward might have turned out differently.
CNN began by playing gushy praise of McCain from the film by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and David Brooks. Then came the “traitor” passage:
BRIGGS: Perhaps Memorial Day will give people a little perspective on what he's all about. I mentioned that service throughout his entire life, but he, Peter, has become probably the most divisive figure in politics, and I don't mean Democratic politics, I mean among Republicans, because of one thing, this thumbs down vote on health care. The president has perpetuated this, that John McCain is in a sense almost a traitor to the Republican Party. What does he make of that, being so -- a divisive figure as he fights for his life?
KUNHARDT: You know, I think what he makes of it -- and the thumbs down is kind of the culmination of the film. What he makes of it is, it's noise, and he's trying to filter out the noise. When we first went to Sedona to interview him, Trump was down there for a rally and there were a lot of calls -- catcalls against McCain. He's saddened by it. He's put off by it. But he doesn't want to address them point by point. He thinks when something comes out that's highly outrageous, he'll -- or wrong, he'll address it.
And we, as filmmakers, knew that if we didn't kind of keep our blinders on and look at his narrative story without getting caught up in the political noise of the day, we would never kind of focus in on the true McCain.
They put on the "blinders" all right. The "political noise of the day" is that McCain flip-flopped. As Politico gushed, he "dealt the fatal punch to the GOP’s seven-year campaign promise to shred Obamacare apart. He's now become a hero for Democrats, effectively voting to protect the chief legislative achievement of President Barack Obama, his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign."