.@jonkarl: "Mr. President, do you have any thoughts on John McCain? Do you have any thoughts at all about John McCain? Do you believe John McCain was a hero, sir? Nothing at all about John McCain? OK." pic.twitter.com/82x4QP2Gbp
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 27, 2018
There’s nothing particularly surprising about President Donald Trump’s rejection of a White House statement praising the late Sen. John McCain on Saturday.
What’s surprising is people expected something different.
“It’s atrocious,” Mark Corallo, a former spokesperson for Trump’s legal team and a longtime Republican strategist tells the Washington Post. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”
The president hasn’t realized — and probably never will realize — that he represents the entirety of the United States. He and McCain were no friends; Trump once declared McCain wasn’t a hero because he taken captive when his jet was shot down over North Vietnam.
White House aides urged the president to put decency and propriety above whatever personal differences, but he wanted to tweet instead.
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018
Then it was back to work on Sunday, blasting the media, boasting of his popularity, and urging prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
“For most of American history, politics stopped when you had the death of a national leader, and the fact that it hasn’t says an awful lot about the current state of our country and our politics, and in particular about Donald Trump,” Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, tells the New York Times.
Other White House officials — the vice president, secretary of state, homeland security secretary, defense secretary, national security adviser, White House press secretary, counselor to the president, education secretary, interior secretary and others tried to make up for the boss by issuing their own statements lauding the senator. So did former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, whom the family asked to deliver eulogies at McCain’s funeral.
“It certainly doesn’t bother me or the people I know close to John,” Weaver told the Post. “I don’t think it bothers John one bit. If we heard something today or tomorrow from Trump, we know it’d mean less than a degree from Trump University.”
When the president returned from a golf outing on Sunday, the flags at the White House were lowered in honor of McCain.
NBC’s Pentagon correspondent tweeted it was restored to its full position this morning.
For context, Obama ordered the flag lowered for five days when Sen. Kennedy died. That said, Obama lowered the flag more than his predecessors. https://t.co/7FKNCnBJBx https://t.co/tjPVJe6gZF
— HansNichols (@HansNichols) August 27, 2018
That, perhaps, is the ultimate sign of disrespect.
“From Washington all the way through to President Obama, presidents have had to play a unifying and even transcendent role in affirming a sense of national unity,” said another presidential historian, Jon Meacham. “It has been and it continues to be almost unthinkable that the 45th president could follow in that tradition, and this is yet another example of his inability to bring disparate forces together even on ceremonial occasions.”