Glowering in public and near-silent for two days, President Donald Trump relented under pressure on Monday by tersely recognizing Sen. John McCain’s “service to our country” and re-lowering the White House flag.
While much of the nation remembered McCain’s record as a war hero, longtime senator and presidential nominee over the weekend, Trump had nursed his grievances. McCain had been an infuriating foil in a long-running feud over style and policy that did not end with the senator’s illness and death. Trump’s reluctance to participate in the national remembrance was awkward and uncomfortable, even by the standards of a leader who acknowledges he doesn’t act like a typical president. The episode highlighted the outsider president’s impulse to harbor personal resentments regardless of political repercussions.
Before Trump’s Monday afternoon statement, his only commentary on McCain’s death had been a perfunctory tweet on Saturday. The lack of a formal statement — combined with the fact that White House flags were flown at half-staff only briefly — drew strong criticism from Republicans and veterans’ groups as well as Democrats. When he finally did comment, in a printed statement, Trump was sparing with his praise for the six-term senator: “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country.”
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018
Karen and I send our deepest condolences to Cindy and the entire McCain family on the passing of Senator John McCain. We honor his lifetime of service to this nation in our military and in public life. His family and friends will be in our prayers. God bless John McCain.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) August 26, 2018
Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy to the McCain Family. Thank you Senator McCain for your service to the nation.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 26, 2018
The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2016
Democrats are laughingly saying that McCain had a “moment of courage.” Tell that to the people of Arizona who were deceived. 116% increase!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017