Senator John McCain has issued a veiled critique of President Donald Trump, warning future service members to be wary of “propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories” and the “seductions of authoritarian rule”.
The comments came during Mr McCain’s speech to the United States Naval Academy, where he urged students to push back against current trends in American politics.
“We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories,” Mr McCain said. “We have to fight isolationism, protectionism, and nativism.”
The line appeared to be a critique of Mr Trump, who ran on a nationalist, “America-first” platform. The President has also made several false claims, including that former President Barack Obama was not born in the US.
Mr McCain did not mention the President by name, but – in a comment that drew applause from the audience – repeated a common critique of Mr Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico.
“We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them,” he said.
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A Navy veteran and former prisoner of war, Mr McCain has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump throughout his time in office. The Naval Academy speech came just weeks after the Senator spoke out about “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America, in what many considered to be a rebuke of the Trump administration.
On Monday, Mr McCain compared current leadership to that of former President George HW Bush.
“We have gone from an interval when the global success of democracy seemed badured to a time in which the seductions of authoritarian rule find favour with many,” he said, “when self-interested leadership excuses naked aggression with weak rationalizations; when ethnic grievances haunt the old and religious fanaticism fires the minds of the misguided young.”
John McCain questions ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ in America’s foreign policy
The Senator also condemned those he claimed had attacked the “badociations, rules, values and aspirations that comprise the international order” – a veiled critique of Mr Trump’s “America first” manifesto. The President recently withdrew from UNESCO, and has refused to certify Iran’s compliance with a landmark nuclear deal.
But the 81-year-old Senator – who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer – ended on a note of hope, telling the midshipmen that he still believes in America.
“We’re capable of better. I’ve seen it,” Mr McCain said. “We’re hopeful, compbadionate people. And we still have leaders who will uphold the values that made America great, and a beacon to the oppressed.”