Two American political figures, contrasting manners.
Senator John McCain will have two former presidents delivering eulogies at his funeral. The sitting president has not been invited to speak. Actually, he has not even been invited to attend. More to the point, he has specifically been disinvited by McCain’s family, a singular rebuke, understandable if not commendable, for an occupant of the Oval Office.
The contrasts are vividly memorable.
McCain served his country as a naval aviator in the Vietnam War. Donald Trump avoided the military draft citing bone spurs in his heel.
McCain was shot down over North Vietnam and spent five years as a prisoner in the so-called Hanoi Hilton, much of it in solitary confinement and often suffering torture, an experience that left him with limited use of his arms and a permanent limp. Donald Trump mocked McCain’s heroic reputation by saying he preferred fighters who managed not to get caught.
McCain was a politician respected by both sides of the political divide. Trump loses almost daily whatever goodwill he started with among the political class.
Senators and former presidents sent messages of condolences to the McCain family that included praise for his sacrifice in the service of his country. Trump’s message to the family pointedly omitted any mention of it.
McCain was commemorated across the country with an outpouring of regret, the national flag flown at half-staff at all government facilities. Trump’s response was to refuse to lower the flag on top of the White House until public outrage, and presumably wiser heads on his staff, forced him to rescind his order.
In his private life John McCain was no angel. Even in his political life, he may best be remembered with retrospective amusement for an inept political campaign that was ridiculed above all for his choice, or acquiescence in, the choice of an unqualified and profoundly stupid woman as his running mate. It didn’t seem so amusing at the time.
Sarah Palin should hang her head in shame, if for no other reason than for almost single-handedly debasing his memory. Palin, of course, is an ardent Trump acolyte, who resembles him in too many ways to bother recounting, but principally in her lack of articulation and laughable ignorance of the world. Presumably she will attend the funeral, although she might best be advised to stay away to avoid reminding the nation of her absurd contribution to American political discourse.
Senior congressional Republicans have joined the laudatory chorus to mark McCain’s death, but they have been strangely silent on Trump’s indecently churlish responses. But then they have been strangely silent on pretty much everything else that Trump does and says that would embarrass any self-respecting political organisation. But then the Grand Old Party no longer lives up, or even seeks to aspire to, that title. Perhaps not so strangely, though, with the mid-term elections approaching and Trump still striking a chord among America’s resentful and indiscriminating blue-collar voters.
Trump will no doubt watch McCain’s funeral on television, and no doubt will order in cheeseburgers and Coca Cola for the occasion.
I make no apology for shamelessly recalling, as I have on previous occasions, the reproachful words of Joseph N. Welch at a famous political event. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”