Dishonor. Not to to the late senator, nor to his father and grandfather of the same name who rendered the same distinguished service in war and peace. Their deeds and reputations are far beyond such mean contrivances. But dishonor indeed to the civilians and officers who hold the lives of young Americans in their hands and went along with this. That the president might wish such behavior is not surprising—he is mean, petty, and vindictive, and even if he did not order this (and he quickly tweeted a denial that he had) he signaled that he wished it. It is what is known in strongman governments as “working towards the Leader.” It is the effect of a personality that contaminates and corrodes every valuable thing he touches.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis would never have agreed to this. But his successor may well have gone along with it. He is, after all, only an acting secretary, and desires the real title from a boss who likes to string ambitious men and women along.
Naval officers of the past—a Preble or a Farragut or a Nimitz—would have disdained such requests. If called on the carpet, they would have spoken up and spoken back, with the firmness expected of officers from a service known for its ornery independence. But perhaps we have fewer of those these days. Petty officers in days gone by would have growled at their enlisted men and women to keep political statements off their shoulders, and enforced the political neutrality of the armed forces. But maybe they no longer understand that public displays of partisan attachment are anathema to good order and discipline. Maybe they wanted to wear MAGA hats, too.