Honor: John McCain vs. Donald Trump

With the death of John McCain, Donald Trump had an easy chance to show that he had the ability to act honorably and presidentially. Statesmen from around the globe, and lawmakers who had strongly disagreed with many of John McCain’s stances, demonstrated their respect and even affection, for McCain. Donald Trump, however, barely mustered a tweet of acknowledgment.

When one does an online search on “Trump honorable acts,” the first several items in the search results include topics like “The 10 Worst Things Trump Has Done This Year,” and “Donald Trump’s Long History of Racism.” In fact, in the top 10 search results for that particular keyword string, only two, related to veterans’ affairs, show Trump in a positive light.

On the other hand, in an online search for “McCain honorable acts,” all but two of the top ten search results were about John McCain’s public service and his time as a prisoner of war. One could argue that this may be, in part, due to the fact that he has just died. Naturally, praise and best regards are likely to flow for a statesman who has just passed. And that, in part, is the point.

It’s not difficult for most people to honor someone who has had a long and prolific career as a public servant, and who was widely liked and respected. Most people, even if grudgingly, are able to get past their philosophical differences to pay their respects. Donald Trump, however, even in the time of McCain’s death, has found it to be too much of a challenge to look past the narcissistic wounds he carries, to act presidentially, and pay any kind of tribute to John McCain.

Even a tribute as simple as leaving the White House flag at half-mast until McCain’s funeral seemed to be too much for Trump to do. (Public pressure eventually did cause Trump to restore the flag to half-mast.) It was also reported that an expression of condolence was drafted for Trump to use – he didn’t even have to compose it himself – yet Trump vetoed it.

McCain was widely recognized as a hero, in part for what he endured as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Perhaps all we need to know about Donald Trump’s character, on the other hand, can be summed up in one statement he made regarding McCain’s time as a POW:

“He’s not a hero…He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump’s need to proclaim to his base that McCain was no hero — that he was not to be honored — demonstrates the profound lack of integrity in Trump himself. Even more than his disregard and lack of understanding for the suffering and heroism of a prisoner of war, Trump showed his childish need to propagate disrespect and disregard for someone widely held in high esteem.

Sometimes, one demonstrates honor in his willingness to honor others. Donald Trump’s belittling of John McCain’s acclaimed heroism,  and now, his studied absence of a tribute to McCain in death, demonstrate not honor, but the desperation of a small man to elevate himself at the expense of someone else, and at all costs.

John McCain Appears To Address President Trump In Farewell Message To Nation | NBC News [2018-08-27]

Trump reportedly vetoed a statement on McCain’s passing | Fox Business [2018-08-27]

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