18 Oct 2018 Renaming Senate Building for McCain Shows Subjective Greatness
Shortly after Senator John McCain’s death, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after him.
Project 21 member Christopher Arps thinks a name change is appropriate, but wonders if modern political temperament can justify awarding people with such honors. In a commentary for Inside Sources that was reprinted in newspapers including the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, he chided those who can’t seem to find individuals great enough to “stand the test of time.”
Russell – one of three buildings on the U.S. Capitol campus set aside for senators’ offices, committees and a dining room famous for its bean soup – is named after Senator Richard Brevard Russell, Jr., a long-serving member who rose to the rank of president pro tempore. But, as Christopher pointed out in his commentary, not all of Russell’s legislative achievements are considered admirable these days:
Despite being a New Deal progressive and ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he later became the unofficial chairman of the Senate’s bipartisan and informal “conservative coalition”… While anti-union, this coalition was also known for its opposition to civil rights legislation.
Russell’s ability to block civil rights legislation was later overcome by another member of that same coalition, then-Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. This truly conservative lawmaker’s name now graces the building next to the one named after Russell.
Christopher noted that “[t]he building should have never been named after a segregationist in the first place” – especially as recently as 1972. That being said, Christopher also suggested Schumer is using the current proposal to put McCain’s name on it for potential political reasons:
[A]re Schumer’s motivations fully transparent? It could be argued that there’s more politics in the mix than praise. While Schumer gets to slyly brush an embarrassing legacy of a member of his own party under the rug, he gets to further advance the stature of a very vocal critic of President Donald Trump. In one of his last acts of maverick moves, McCain’s pivotal “thumbs-down” gesture on the Senate floor during the Obamacare debate saved it from being repealed and relegated to the dustbin of bad legislative ideas.
McCain, Christopher pointed out, had his share of race-oriented criticism leveled against him by the same liberals who now sing his praises. For example, when he ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008, McCain was considered a racist for things he called his former Vietnamese captors and for voting against a federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There was even a 180-page book published in 2008 subtitled “John McCain’s Racism and Why It Matters.” He was also called Islamophobic in 2013 for likening former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a “monkey.”
Considering these allegations, Christopher asked: “[W]hen might people clamor for a McCain Senate Office Building to be renamed?”
Bloomberg Opinion recently suggested that “Congress should adopt a retroactive rule requiring that the naming of federal buildings come with a 50-year sunset clause.”
Shouldn’t greatness stand the test of time? If you can’t find greatness, perhaps don’t name the building after anyone at all.
This might be why Schumer didn’t previously suggest the Russell Building be named for the late senator Edward M. Kennedy.
To read Christopher’s entire commentary, click here.