President Biden’s Inspiring Praise of John McCain and Criticism of Donald Trump  and MAGA 

On September 28, 2023, President Joe Biden was in Tempe, Arizona to  announce a major federal grant to the state of Arizona to help design and build a new McCain National Library at Arizona State University. The President’s remarks on that occasion honored his deceased friend, John McCain, followed by the President’s blistering attack on Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement. [1]

Remarks About John McCain

The President started by quoting from McCain’s farewell letter to the nation as he was dying from brain cancer. “We are citizens of the world — the world’s greatest republic. A nation of ideals, not blood and soil. Americans never quit. They never hide from history. America makes history.”

“John was right. Every other nation in the world has been founded on either a grouping by ethnicity, religion, background. We’re the most unique nation in the world. We’re founded on an idea — the only major nation in the world founded on an idea. An idea that we are all created equal in the image of God, endowed by our Creator to be able to be treated equally throughout our lives.”

“I believe very strongly that the defining feature of our democracy is our Constitution and our believe in the separation of powers and checks and balances, that debate and disagreement do not lead to disunion. I believe in free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power. I believe there is no place in America — none, none, none — for political violence. We have to denounce hate, not embolden it.”

“I’m the guy that convinced [John] to run in Arizona as a Republican, . .. and I said, ‘John, you can do this job. My only worry is you’ll do it too well.’”

“John is one of those patriots who, when they die, their voices are never silent. They still speak to us. They tug at both our hearts and our conscience. And they pose the most profound questions: Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? What will we be?”

“While [recently] in Hanoi, I visited a marker depicting where John had endured all the pain. Imprisoned five and a half years. Solitary confinement for two years. Given an opportunity to come home if he just said a couple things, [which he refused to do]. He was beaten, bloodied, bones broken, isolated, tortured, left unable to raise his arms above his shoulders again.”

“I [also] thought about how much America missed John right now, how much America needed John’s courage and foresight and vision. I thought about what John stood for, what he fought for, what he was willing to die for. I thought about what we owed John, what I owed him, and what we . . .owed each other as well — and Americans as well.”

Criticism of Trump and MAGA

Biden then directed his attention to “something dangerous happening in America now. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic belief in our democracy: the MAGA Movement. . . . [T]here is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.”

“[T]hey’re not hiding their attacks. They’re openly promoting them — attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.”

But “democracy means respecting the institutions that govern a free society. That means adhering to the timeless words of the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’ A mission statement embodied in our Constitution, our system of separation of powers and checks and balances.”

“But our institutions and our democracy are not just of government. The institutions of democracy depend on the Constitution and our character and the habits of our hearts and minds.”

“Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn the threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned, tired, alienated.”

“Democracy means rejecting and repudiating political violence. Regardless of party, such violence is never, never, never acceptable in America. It’s undemocratic, and it must never be normalized to advance political power.”

“Did you ever think we’d be having debates . . . [about] banning books and burying history? Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.”

“Every other nation in the world has been founded on either a grouping by ethnicity, religion, background. We’re the most unique nation in the world. We’re founded on an idea — the only major nation in the world founded on an idea. An idea that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator in the image of God . . . to be able to be treated equally throughout our lives.”

“Extremists in Congress [are] more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done. Frankly, these extremists have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. It’s the controlling element of the House Republican Party.”

“Just consider these . . .actual quotes from . . . the MAGA movement. ‘I am your retribution.’ ‘Slitting throats” of civil servants, replacing them with extreme political cronies. MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, ‘We must destroy the FBI.’”

“Let me begin with the core principles. Democracy means rule of the people, not rule of monarchs, not rule of the monied, not rule of the mighty. Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections; accepting the outcome, win or lose. It means you can’t love your country only when you win.”

“MAGA extremists . . . are harming military readiness, leadership, troop morale, freezing pay, freezing military families in limbo.”

“MAGA extremists [call Mark Milley] the retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military, a ‘traitor.’ In times gone by, the punishment would’ve been death.”

“One [Republican Senator] in Alabama is holding up the promotion of . .. hundreds of these officers.”

The “defeated former President refused to pay respects at an American cemetery near Paris, referring to the American servicemen buried there . . . as ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’”

“Our U.S. military . . . is the strongest military in the history of the world. It’s the most diverse, the most powerful in the history of the world. And it’s being accused of being weak and “woke” by the opposition.”

“Our Constitution [is] the bulwark to prevent the abuse of power to ensure ‘We the People’ move forward together under the law, rather than believing the only way is one way or no way at all.”

“Remember what [Trump] did as he was leaving office: He imposed a new thing [on] the Civil Service — ‘Schedule F.’ These civil servants had to pledge loyalty to the President, not the Constitution. It did not require that they had any protections, and the President would be able to wholesale fire them if he wanted, because they had . . . no Civil Service protection. [This is one] of the first things I got rid of when I became President.”

“So, you, me, every American who is committed to preserving our democracy and our constitutional protections, we carry a special responsibility. We have to stand up for American values embedded in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, because we know the MAGA extremists have already proven they won’t.”

“These principles of democracy are essential in a free society, but they have always been embattled. While we’ve made progress, democracy is still at risk.”

“They’re pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him. And this is a dangerous notion: This president is above the law, with no limits on power.”

“This MAGA threat is the threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. But it’s also a threat to the character of our nation and gives our Constitution life, that binds us together as Americans in common cause.”

“Trump says the Constitution gave him ‘the right to do whatever he wants as President.. . . ’ Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

“We see the[MAGA} headlines: “sweeping expansion of presidential power.” Their goal to ‘alter the balance of power by increasing the President’s authority over every part of the federal government.’”

“We’ve never fully lived up to that idea, but we’ve never walked away from it. But there’s danger we’re walking too far away from it now, the way we talk in this country. Because a long line of patriots like John McCain kept it from ever becoming something other than what it is.”

“What do [Trump and MAGA] intend to do once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of federal agencies and put them under the thumb of a president? Give the President the power to refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated if he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for? . . . Get rid of longstanding protections for civil servants? Whitewash [the] attacks of January 6th by calling the spearing and stomping of police a ‘legitimate political discourse’?

[In recent days they made] accusations of treason . . .against the major . . . news network because they don’t like its coverage.”


Michael Beschloss, presidential historian, said, “Biden has never delivered a more important, powerful or eloquent speech” than this one “about the crucial importance of protecting American democracy.”

According to Peter Baker of the New York Times, Biden “portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution.”

As an U.S. citizen, I congratulate President Biden for his justified and blistering attack on MAGA and Trump. Biden needs to keep doing it.


[1] Remarks by President Biden Honoring the Legacy of Senator John McCain and the Work We Must do Together , White House (Sept. 28, 2023); ASU to create national library honoring legacy of Sen. John McCain, (Sept. 28, 2023).

[2] Baker, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, N.Y. Times (Sept. 29, 2023); Tait, Biden warns voters a second Trump presidency will threaten democracy, Guardian (Sept. 29, 2023).


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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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