A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Trump’s behavior during McCain’s funeral lacks sincerity

The opinion of President Donald Trump towards former Senator John McCain was no secret; Trump’s biting comments concerning McCain and his POW experiences were well-known, and his declaration that he likes “people that weren’t captured” was one of the most well-known sound bites of his early campaign. Trump’s dislike of McCain didn’t waiver, not during McCain’s lifetime, and not after his death.

While some Americans would have preferred to forget one of the most disgraceful of Trump’s many disgraceful remarks, the president wouldn’t let that happen. He had to insult McCain one last time. On the weekend following McCain’s death, the White House flew the flag at half-staff, as was appropriate. Yet on Monday, well before McCain’s funeral was set to take place later in the week, the White House raised the flag to full-staff again. Government offices and businesses across the country honored McCain’s passing with flags at half-staff and words of admiration and condolence, but Trump couldn’t manage to act like an adult. He tweeted a brief message of condolence when McCain passed but then rejected releasing a statement honoring McCain that had been prepared by the White House staff to be released in his name.

His behavior did not improve as the week continued. Leading political figures, including three former presidents – Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton – came together to pay tribute to the late senator from Arizona. But the current US leader decided to head to a Virginia golf course. Once there, rather than releasing a proper statement concerning McCain or the funeral, he instead tweeted about the ongoing issues concerning NAFTA.

The most disturbing part of all of it is that no one really seems surprised by any of Trump’s behavior. He has created for himself a reputation of sharing his crass and crude opinions rather than working to maintain even a thin veneer of civility with anyone who dares cross him or question him, and McCain did both. Even in the face of both sides of the political aisle, conservative and liberal alike, coming together to honor McCain, the president could not bring himself to honor an American hero. It is no wonder that leaders of foreign countries have no desire to work with Trump, to meet with him, to forge friendships or any kind of relationship. He shows no ability to behave like an adult, resorting to tantrum-like tirades and pouting faces. He is, in name, the leader of our country, yet he cannot bring leaders to any sort of agreements or make any progress in uniting us as Americans. We need a president who can bring Americans together to create bipartisan agreements, but instead, we have one who can’t even get along with a dead man.