Every now and then we get a jolting reminder that Trump is actually less impulsive and vindictive than some of the people around him.
Let me assure his cronies that no matter how weirdly satisfying they might find it to watch POTUS throw a Twitter-punch at the dead senator’s grieving daughter, aggrieved silence is by far the wiser choice politically.
His friends and allies fumed. Trump had endured a week of criticism for his handling of McCain’s death, but the eulogy from the late senator’s daughter, Meghan, was the last straw, according to three people close to the White House…
While Trump allies often quietly hope the president tones down his Twitter commentary, Saturday was different. The service and week of remembrances were unfair to the president, they said, and they hoped for an online eruption…
On Saturday, Trump’s allies groused about Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s presence at an event that portrayed the president in such a negative light, with one person calling their attendance a “huge mistake.” Another complained that they had been seated too far back in the church.
If you want to hit back at Team McCain for yesterday’s very political spectacle, the smart way to go is to play up Javanka’s circumstantial victimhood. No matter how much John might have approved of Meghan’s broadsides at Trump or how true to the spirit of the moment they were was, the barely-veiled jabs at POTUS were a show of hostility to Trump fans who had put aside their political disagreements with McCain to tune in and pay their respects. That goes double for the president’s daughter and son-in-law, who entered an unfriendly arena — “a meeting of the Resistance, under vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows,” per Susan Glasser of the New Yorker — to pay theirs. “It was a very nice gesture by Jared and Ivanka to attend,” said Trump frenemy Sam Nunberg to Politico. “I find it contemptible that the McCain family couldn’t seat them in a better, more respectable section.”
I’m as curious to know what inspired Ivanka and Jared to attend as Trump’s own allies are. Theories range from the extremely earnest to the extremely cynical. Maybe they really did admire McCain personally, particularly his courage in Vietnam, and wanted to broadcast that no matter how unwelcome they might be. Maybe they felt remorse about dad’s infamous “I like the people who don’t get captured” remark and tried to atone on his behalf. Maybe it was no more or less than a favor to Lindsey Graham, who asked them to attend. (Why Grahamnesty wanted them there is another interesting question, although it makes sense coming from a guy who’s tried to play both sides of the Trump/anti-Trump divide in the party.) Maybe it was just a way for them to re-ingratiate themselves to the polite society from which they’re currently alienated because of their work in the Trump White House.
Or maybe it was a simple matter of Ivanka and Jared understanding that their side won the great populist-establishment war of 2016 and you really can’t go wrong being magnanimous in victory. Tim Alberta:
For much of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and accelerating through the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the electorate and its representatives were hardened by a combination of class warfare, zero-sum legislating and cultural polarization that invited Trump’s ascent. Having pulled the plug — and smothered the better angels of our nature with a pillow for good measure — the president finds himself at once disinvited from a singular Washington gathering and yet dominating its consciousness…
Not that any of this necessarily bothers Trump, who spent the morning tweeting about deep state sedition and Canadian trade exploitation before heading to his northern Virginia golf club. There are, after all, disparate realities — one inside the holy halls of the National Cathedral, where powerful people mourn the death of civility; and another in the surrounding city, where many of those same powerful people drive nails ever deeper into its coffin. And there is a greater juxtaposition still — this one between the virtue-signaling, convention-worshipping insiders of Washington and the mad-as-hell, burn-it-down voters in the provinces. This might not be Donald Trump’s town, but it’s still his country.
Yes, and it’s Bernie’s country too. The center-right/center-left establishment congregation that took “civic communion” together yesterday is losing power on both sides. The funeral was a gathering of people whose moment has passed; Meghan’s shots at Trump felt less like a rallying cry than a eulogy for the sort of Washington consensus of which her dad was a key part but which has already been formally rejected by the right and looks likely to be rejected by the left in 2020. No doubt she meant every word of what she said, but the problem with saying that “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great” is that “the America of John McCain” doesn’t appear to exist anymore, at least not outside state funerals. And it’s not coming back anytime soon, I’d guess. If you had to bet on whether the 2024 Republican election pitch more closely follows Trumpism or McCainism, how would you bet? In 20 years’ time, would you expect that the Republican base is more or less populist-nationalist than it is now? Some day, some of the people in the pews yesterday may remember Trump as a distinctly moderate figure.
Which, again, is why Trump is better off shrugging off the jabs and declining to return them. He won. He has nothing left to prove. Meghan’s shots at him weren’t taken from a position of strength, like when Obama goofed on him to his face at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner while official Washington laughed. They were taken from a position of weakness, in a moment of grief both for her dad and for the sort of political sensibility he represented, which is now also passing from the scene. That may explain why Ivanka and Jared felt comfortable showing up. They weren’t outnumbered. It was everyone else in the room who’s outnumbered.