It’s funny to me to watch Trump-friendly analysts like Brit Hume puzzle over why POTUS would continue to attack someone who’s been dead for months, had many friends among the Republican senators whose votes Trump needs to move his agenda, and continues to be admired by many American voters (albeit not among Trump’s base). The answer seems obvious: To Trump, this is one of the sweetest perks of the job. He gets to settle scores with enemies, even dead enemies, and have the entire world cover it.
What more could a troll hope for but to have his sick burns reach every corner of the globe?
It’s hard to overstate the sheer weirdness of the clip below. Watch — and don’t quit early or else you’ll miss the big funeral riff at the end. He said this at a tank factory in Ohio today; it’s not like his feelings about McCain were a subject that the occasion demanded he address. He’s making new enemies gratuitously, especially within his own party. Like Johnny Isakson:
America deserves better, the people deserve better, and nobody—regardless of their position—is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life. When the president is saying that that he doesn’t respect John McCain and he’s never going to respect John McCain and all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead it just sets the worst tone possible.
“It’s deplorable what he said. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again,” Isakson added in a radio appearance today before Trump spoke at the tank factory. Isakson was mad at Trump’s riff about McCain in the Oval Office yesterday. Wait’ll he sees this. Before long Trump will be dialing into Senate Republican caucus meetings just to remind them that he thought their friend John sucked.
What’s most amazing to me is that laying off McCain is the least he could do to show his gratitude to Lindsey Graham, one of his most loyal cronies in the Senate, for defending him so often. He must know they were best friends; surely Graham’s said something to him privately, not to mention publicly, about letting his feud with McCain go. Trump can’t do it, or won’t. Maybe he figures there’s no fun in having a toady like Graham if he can’t torture him a little now and then. If nothing else, the fact that Graham won’t tear into Trump over this must prove to Trump how completely he owns him.
The smart, politic way to address his dislike for McCain, aside from just not farking talking about it anymore, would be to qualify it with an appreciation for the things he did like about Maverick. There’s no need to join the movement to make McCain into some secular saint; Drew McCoy is right that many of the people treating Maverick as a sacred cow today happily savaged him in 2008. (Erick Erickson’s also right that any Republican savaging McCain in 2008 would have been shredded by righty populists for not being a team player.) “I disapproved strongly of his position on immigration and his vote against repealing ObamaCare,” Trump could say, “but we all admire the personal courage of a man who spent years enduring the brutality of his captors in Hanoi.”
But Trump can’t say that because, almost uniquely among American politicians, he doesn’t believe it.
I’ll end with a point about self-interest, since one distinctive thing about the GOP in the era of Trump is that it makes no bones about treating self-interest as its north star in all things: There’s already reason to believe that disrespecting McCain is bad for Trump and for the party. His job approval numbers are famously steady no matter what’s going on in the U.S. or in the world but a rare exception came early last September, when they suddenly slipped in poll after poll. McCain died at the end of August and Trump snubbed him by rushing to raise the White House flag to full staff after it had initially been lowered in tribute. The slight wasn’t unnoticed, including by the American Legion. Even people who hold no special affection for McCain will find this spectacle strange and petty, and those who did like McCain will find it appalling. Basically only his fans, who are voting for him anyway, will enjoy it. Smart move from a guy facing reelection who’s at 43 percent in most polls.
President Trump on John McCain: "I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn’t get thank you. That's ok. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain." pic.twitter.com/hG4XwOiIBO
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2019