John McCain apparently doesn’t want Donald Trump at his funeral. Instead, he wants Vice President Mike Pence to come in the President’s stead.
Sources close to McCain have reported that he has requested that President Trump not attend his funeral. As McCain battles a particularly virulent form of brain cancer, it seems likely that his state funeral won’t be far off.
This week, in a soundbite taken from his upcoming memoir, McCain himself said “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” as sure a sign as any that his condition has taken a turn for the worse. McCain has been back home in Arizona since he underwent surgery last month in an attempt to defeat an intestinal infection.
This won’t be the first time Trump has skipped a funeral for an establishment Republican figure. He didn’t go to Barbara Bush’s memorial last month either, sending Melania in his stead.
And there is, of course, no love lost between Donald Trump and John McCain. During the 2016 primary, Trump harshly criticized McCain. In fact, he even claimed that John McCain is only considered a “war hero” because he was taken captive during the Vietnam War. Trump said he preferred “people who weren’t captured.”
McCain got his revenge, however, by striking the decisive blow against one of Trump’s major campaign promises. He cast the deciding “no” vote on an initiative to repeal Obamacare in the Senate. This act won him plenty of fawning acclaim in the leftist media. (Who, don’t forget, savaged him for being a “racist” in 2008.)
McCain’s final act of defiance against The Donald may have made him popular with the left again. But it left millions of middle-class professionals and small business owners struggling. McCain had a chance to help the people suffering under Obamacare’s cripplingly high premiums.
Instead, John McCain chose to make a dramatic statement and strike a symbolic blow against Donald Trump. He got to go out with a bang, rather than with a whimper. It seems likely this latest snub, ordering the President to keep away from his casket, is just another parting shot from a dying McCain.
But, of course, Trump has it coming for the things he said about McCain. Whatever the man’s politics, the truth is that John McCain was heroic during his time as a POW of the North Vietnamese.
McCain wasted away in a Vietnamese prison camp for more than five years, two of them spent in solitary confinement. His arms, legs, ribs, teeth, and shoulders were broken by the brutality of the Communists.
During this time his father, Jack McCain, was named commander-in-chief of all US Pacific forces. The North Vietnamese, hoping to score a propaganda victory, offered the younger McCain an early release in June of 1968.
McCain refused the offer, telling the Communists that he would wait his turn for release, and not leave until those who had been captured before him were let go. McCain chose to endure an additional four-plus years of torture and imprisonment. He didn’t want to break the morale of his fellow POWs by cashing in on his family connections to escape Hanoi.
Even though McCain was tortured and beaten regularly as a result, he never accepted an offer of early release. He sweated out his imprisonment like every other US captive until his release in 1973 at the war’s end. To this day, because his broken arms never healed right, McCain remains incapable of raising either arm above shoulder level.
After McCain voted down the Obamacare repeal, a story went around that Trump was mocking him behind closed doors. It was reported that Trump was mimicking the gesture McCain made on the floor of the Senate – the half-raised thumbs-down – joking about the Senator’s inability to raise his arm all the way when casting his vote.
At the time, Meghan McCain criticized the president for this reported behavior. She called it “abhorrent.” And she was right.
John McCain’s inability to raise his arms, because he was tortured by Vietnamese Communists, wasn’t an appropriate target for Trump’s attacks. Yes, McCain made a foolish decision, possibly out of a petty desire to get back at a political foe. But he made that decision late in his life, while beset by cancer and wanting to leave some kind of memorable legacy.
And the foolishness of the decision he made in 2017 doesn’t erase the bravery of the decision he made in 1968. McCain chose to endure unbelievable suffering and violence because it was the right thing to do. Donald Trump was wrong to mock him for making that choice.
And now it seems that John will have the last laugh. At the McCain funeral service, which is set to be held at the National Cathedral in D.C., former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will read the eulogies. And President Trump, it seems, will just have to ask Mike Pence how things went after the fact.