As jaw dropping as Donald Trump’s USS John McCain scandal was, Trump could have dispensed with it by publicly condemning the disgraceful decision to obscure the ship, and by vowing to take appropriate action to make sure no one in his White House ever does anything like that again. But Trump being Trump, he’s decided to make the whole thing even worse and drag it out as absurdly as possible. This means he has a problem with one of his own key people.
The United States hasn’t had a Secretary of Defense for roughly six months, since the respected James Mattis resigned in protest of Donald Trump’s deranged behavior. During that time, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan has been serving as Acting Secretary of Defense. Shanahan has no business being anywhere near the role, as he lacks the qualifications and experience, and he’s nothing more than a lackey for the aerospace industry. But it turns out even Shanahan can’t deal with this USS John MccCain nonsense.
When it first became clear that someone higher up the flagpole had asked the Navy to hide the John McCain, Patrick Shanahan quickly announced to the media that the request didn’t come from him, and that he didn’t agree with it. This couldn’t have been much more clear of a sign that Donald Trump should drop the whole thing, make amends, and move on. Instead he sent Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on television on Sunday to defend the fact that the White House made this request. This prompted Shanahan to turn around and stress to the media that the request went directly from the White House to the Navy, and that he and his Department of Defense had nothing to do with it.
Donald Trump’s decision to double down on this indefensible scandal is forcing his own Acting Secretary of Defense to keep publicly pushing back against it. Worse, because Trump recently nominated Shanahan to become the permanent Secretary of Defense, he’s about to go through Senate confirmation hearings. Senate Democrats will use their allotted time to ask him to spell out precisely how he feels about Trump’s White House having tried to hide the John McCain.
You have to wonder if this nomination will even survive. Sure, the Senate Republicans will rubber stamp Patrick Shanahan if it gets that far. But Shanahan is clearly unnerved by Trump’s handling of the McCain scandal – and Shanahan’s ongoing public remarks about it are sure to irritate Trump as well. Are Trump and his handlers really willing to put Shanahan through a televised confirmation process, knowing this will come up yet again? You get the feeling Donald Trump might end up having to look for yet another Acting Secretary of Defense before much longer.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report