Mr. President: Give Senator McCain his due

Mr. President: Give Senator McCain his due

By Ellen Ratner   
Published
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, before hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington D.C., June 13, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

LOS ANGELES — This week Senator John McCain decided to discontinue treatment for his brain cancer. He died late Saturday afternoon at his home in Arizona. He must have known he was going to die soon when he decided to stop further treatment.

Unfortunately, President Trump did not respond to Senator McCain’s decision, and only after he died did the president issue a statement in the form of a tweet: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

He did not talk about the life of Senator McCain in the statement.

The two of them had been at odds for a very long time. Although it was published that Senator McCain was less than nice about President Trump when he was running for office, Senator McCain was supportive of the president in May of 2016. “Politico published audio leaked from a fundraiser in which McCain grimly tells supporters that Trump is hurting the GOP brand with Arizona’s Latino electorate and that ‘this may be the race of my life.’”

But McCain subsequently told reporters he was sticking with Trump. “Because I’m a proud Republican. I am a Ronald Reagan-Teddy Roosevelt Republican and I support the Republican Party,” McCain said. “And the Republicans have chosen the nominee for the party. I think that makes sense.”

However, before that time, Senator McCain criticized then-candidate Donald Trump, and then-candidate Donald Trump attacked Senator McCain. It is interesting to note that President Trump, who did not serve in Vietnam, attacked Senator McCain as “a war hero because he was captured” and that he liked “people that weren’t captured.”

But McCain subsequently told reporters he was sticking with Trump. “Because I’m a proud Republican. I am a Ronald Reagan-Teddy Roosevelt Republican and I support the Republican Party,” McCain said. “And the Republicans have chosen the nominee for the party. I think that makes sense.”

However, before that time, Senator McCain criticized then-candidate Donald Trump, and then-candidate Donald Trump attacked Senator McCain. It is interesting to note that President Trump, who did not serve in Vietnam, attacked Senator McCain as “a war hero because he was captured” and that he liked “people that weren’t captured.”

Senator McCain spent five-plus years as a prisoner of war after he was shot down in 1967. After the attack by candidate Trump, Senator McCain was then defended by several veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Officers Association of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Concerned Veterans for America.

Incredibly, candidate Trump said in a 2015 tweet that Senator John McCain should be defeated in the primaries and that that “he graduated last in his class at Annapolis – dummy.”

Senator McCain said in a television interview about the same time: “I just think that it is offensive to not only Hispanic citizenry, but other citizenry, but he’s entitled to say what he wants to say. … But I guarantee you the overwhelming majority (in Arizona) … do not agree with his attitude, that he has displayed, toward our Hispanic citizens. We love them.”

He gave an interview to the LA Times when he first returned to the Senate after his diagnosis of brain cancer in September 2017 that he supported DACA. “It is not conscionable to tell young people who came here as children that they have to go back to a country that they don’t know.”

In the same interview, he talked about climate change, saying: “We have to understand that the climate may be changing and we can take common-sense measures which will not harm the American people and our economy.”

This is in direct opposition to Trump, who this week had the EPA end President Obama’s greenhouse gas regulations for coal plants. During a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Trump said: “We’re canceling Obama’s illegal anti-coal destroying regulations, the so-called Clean Power Plan. … Just today we announced our new Affordable Clean Energy proposal that will help our coal-fired power plants and save consumers – you, me, everybody – billions and billions of dollars.”

Senator McCain, at the end his life, did not respond to this, nor did he say anything about President Trump or the Senate’s actions of late. Likely he was not able to.

I am a Democrat, and I don’t agree with everything that Senator McCain believed in and voted for; but to say that someone who spent five-plus years in captivity is not a war hero is not giving Senator McCain what he was due. The man left this earth, and we owe it to his memory to give him the respect due to anyone who spent that long in captivity and who served this country, not only in the military (both as a pilot and a captive) but as a U.S. senator.

In his statement, the president missed a chance to support someone that most Americans admired.

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