I don’t think this was the White House’s goal in asking that the ship be kept out of view during Trump’s visit to Japan but it may well be the effect. If you’re a serviceman with some connection to the late senator, particularly if you’re a career officer making your way up the ranks, are you more or less likely to acknowledge that connection knowing what you know today about the USS McCain incident? If you’re a sailor on the McCain who finds himself with a chance to meet the president for whatever reason, are you walking in there advertising the ship you serve on or not so much?
Either way, the whole incident is repulsive, writes Jonathan Turley:
This is all an utter disgrace. The acting Secretary of Defense denies knowledge of the order and the White House will not respond to further questions. I do not consider this to be a trivial matter. Moving warships and ordering sailors to conceal identifying features for political purposes is unacceptable. It is not simply petty politics. It is an abuse of power. The acting Secretary is saying that they are “looking into the matter.”…
Regardless of whether Trump ordered the move, the White House appears behind the disrespectful order. It not only made our service personnel into props but made our military look like fawning servants to the fragile ego of a leader. I have no reason to doubt Trump’s denial. This is not the type of thing that reached the Oval Office as an action item. However, that is not enough. Trump needs to pledge to find the responsible people and remove them from federal service.
That’s a stirring thought but, er, Trump won’t be punishing anyone. He’s already gone to bat for whoever ordered the move, calling them “well-meaning” this morning. And you know what? In a way, they were. Ed did a terrific job in his post earlier trying to untangle the various contradictory news reports about what happened, but the likely truth is obvious: Some White House staffer, knowing Trump’s impulse to grouse about McCain whenever the subject comes up and fearing the optics of him doing so on Memorial Day weekend in front of a group of sailors, took preemptive measures to prevent it from happening. Remember, it was just two months ago that Trump dropped by a tank factory in Ohio to tout his record on jobs and somehow ended up digressing at length before a silent audience about how little he cared for McCain. Was it possible that the sight of the USS McCain in Japan, or the insignia on the caps worn by the ship’s sailors, might have sent him off on another weird harangue generating days of bad press? Well, yeah. Eminently.
And someone in the White House recognized that and did what they could to stop it. Trump nemesis George Conway put it this way:
That they think the mere sight of the word “McCain” on a Navy vessel or on a cap would trigger an irrational reaction by Trump—and that they view it as their job to forestall such a reaction—says a great deal about Trump’s mental condition and its effect on the government.
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) May 30, 2019
They were trying to spare the boss from another self-inflicted PR accident, which is “well-meaning” — sort of. In a way. Which is neither an excuse nor a defense of what the White House staffer requested, as it dishonored not only Maverick but the ship’s other namesakes, his father and grandfather.
The punchline, of course, is that the staffer’s zeal in trying to prevent a new McCain-related black eye for the boss ended up producing one, with Trump forced to take questions about the USS McCain incident and McCain’s daughter ripping into him again on national TV. Here we are.
.@MeghanMcCain reacts to a White House directive to cover-up the name on USS McCain from president’s view while in Japan: “When you repeatedly are attacking my father and war heroes, it creates a culture in the military where people are clearly fearful to show my father’s name.” pic.twitter.com/bu1KL0RaVk
— The View (@TheView) May 30, 2019