President Trump’s relations with the late Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) were fraught, to say the least. Trump questioned McCain’s war heroism — he infamously joked that he liked soldiers who “weren’t caught” — and repeatedly slammed him for his supposed treachery in failing to support Trump’s presidential bid sufficiently. After McCain’s death, Trump initially offered no presidential statement, then had the White House flag raised to full-staff before the generally accepted period between the death and burial of a sitting senator. All of this was petty and childish.
McCain, for his part, obviously couldn’t stand Trump — he sniped at Trump’s Vietnam War deferments and launched into Trump’s “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” In part, McCain may even have voted in favor of preserving Obamacare thanks to his antipathy for Trump. McCain let his family know before his death that he didn’t want Trump at his funeral. (Other representatives from the administration were present.)
So it wasn’t much of a surprise when speaker after speaker at McCain’s funeral used the occasion to carve into Trump. McCain’s daughter, Meghan, stated, “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” These were the words of an aggrieved daughter; on that basis alone, they’re understandable.
But the same wasn’t true for the attacks on Trump by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Bush stated, “John McCain would insist we are better than this. America is better than this.” Obama explained, “Trafficking in bombastic manufactured outrage, it’s politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.” The political world fawned over video of Bush handing a piece of candy to Michelle Obama.