John McCain in Australia

There is no getting away from the fact that a visit to that known outpost of American Empire, Australia, softens the mind and leads to a more vigorous wagging of tongues than usual. Away from the scrutiny of a full blooded Washington press corps, politicians can engage in speculation and hyperbole. The paternalists can slip into something more comfortable, and lord over their retainers.

US Senator John McCain, one such paternalist on tour, was a true picture for budding psychologists on his visit down under. There was a chance for sightseeing in Australia, and offering what would amount to a more moderate touch than the US President.

Having expressed his deep concern at the exploits of the Trump administration, he was trying to hold things together – if only barely.  In his sprinkling of views and addresses, the themes of stability and reassurance were pressing, neither of which are particular convincing in this age of Trump.

In a 30 minute address in the NSW State Library’s reading room, McCain was hyping the paternal, familial line: Australians need not be worried that the Grand Uncle across the Pacific had, with a set of similar, affirmed values, forgotten them.  “I realise that I come to Australia at a time when many are questioning whether America is still committed to these values.”

These shared values, uttered like a Tibetan mantra, were those of “truth over falsehood, fairness over injustice, freedom over oppression, and the immortal spirit of…

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