Senator John McCain, who spent six years in a prisoner of war camp in the Vietnam War, died this evening of brain cancer, shortly after his family announced that he had discontinued medical treatment. Not surprisingly, condolences and honorifics immediately began pouring in from both sides of the political aisle. Donald Trump quickly posted a tweet about McCain’s passing, but it wasn’t exactly received warmly.
John McCain spent his political career sometimes toeing the Republican Party line and sometimes crossing the aisle, which left liberals and Democrats never quite sure what to make of him as a politician. But there was no debating that he was an American hero. When he was captured, he was given the chance to be released early, but he refused to leave before his fellow prisoners of war who were supposed to have been released first. So how did Donald Trump interpret that during the campaign? He said “I like people who weren’t captured.”
After John McCain revealed that he had likely terminal brain cancer, Donald Trump began using his position as “President” of the United States to mock McCain during various political rallies. So much for the notion that Trump’s initial remark about prisoners of war was somehow meant in jest. Trump deeply resented the fact that McCain was seen as a hero and he wasn’t, particularly in light of Trump’s five Vietnam War draft deferments for “bone spurs” that no one believes ever existed.
Moments after it was announced this evening that John McCain had passed away, Donald Trump’s official Twitter account posted this: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” It’s highly doubtful that Trump wrote it. Trump was going to receive criticism this evening whether he praised McCain, attacked McCain, or stayed silent. But this was a situation of Trump’s own making. He attacked a dying American hero, even as his own treasonous conspiracy with the Russians was being exposed. McCain deserves all the praise he’s receiving tonight, and Trump deserves all the condemnation landing on his doorstep.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report