This morning, speaking to reporters outside the White House, President Trump addressed the news that the USS John McCain was ordered out of sight during his trip to Japan, calling the person who gave the order “well-meaning”.
“I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t involved. I would not have done that. I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form. I think John McCain had a lot to getting President Bush, a lot to do with it, to go into the Middle East which was catastrophe,” the president said.
He continued, “To me, John McCain, I wasn’t a fan. But I would never do a thing like that. Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him. Okay? And, they were well-meaning, I will say. I didn’t know anything about it. I would never have done that.”
When asked if he owed the sailors of the John McCain an apology, he replied, “No, not at all.”
The New York Times reports that in addition to initially covering the name on the ship with a tarp to block the name from view in pictures, sailors from the McCain were not invited to attend the president’s speech aboard the USS WASP while sailors from other ships were invited. A service member based on the Yokosuka told the Times that all of the ships in the harbor were invited to send 60 – 70 sailors to the event, but the McCain was not. In addition, when sailors from the McCain showed up with their ship’s insignia on their uniforms, they were turned away.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Navy official confirmed that the crew was not invited to hear their commander-in-chief speak but said it was because sailors from the McCain, along with the crew from the USS Stethem, were released from duty for the holiday weekend.
According to CNN, two officials from the Navy confirmed that the White House Military Office asked about keeping the McCain out of sight during President Trump’s visit to Japan, with one official saying the discussion included obscuring or moving the ship. Because the ship is under repairs, doing so was not practical. One senior Navy official told CNN, “Once leadership heard about it, they said knock it off.”
Naval officials told CNN that the tarp and barge were present for maintenance purposes and not to cover the name.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick told reporters he only learned of the issue on Thursday morning. Denying knowledge about the order to move the John McCain ahead of Trump’s visit he said, “The only ships I’ve moved is the USS Abraham Lincoln.” He continued, “Furthermore, I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain. I also think it’s important – I’d never disrespect the young men and women that crew that ship. I’ve asked my chief of staff to look into the matter.”
The late Senator McCain, who was a frequent recipient of the president’s ire, passed away last year after a battle with brain cancer. His daughter, Meghan tweeted Wednesday night about the reports, “Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life. There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable.”
Wednesday evening, after the reports about the USS John McCain broke, President Trump tweeted, “I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!”
Why It Matters
Whether President Trump was involved in the order or not is immaterial. That there were individuals in his administration who thought the 71 year old President of the United States of America and commander-in-chief, who ostensibly loves the military, needed to be shielded from the mere name of a man who has been dead for nine months is appalling.
Such an action, done on behalf of any normal person occupying the Oval Office, being brought to light, would result in outrage and a vow to find out who would order such a thing done. Upon discovering the identity of the person who would be behind such an insult to an American hero, that individual would be promptly fired.
Instead, President Trump calls the person who did this “well-meaning” and recites a litany of grievances he has nursed since John McCain first crossed him.
This conduct is not fitting of the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. He should be met with outrage from both sides of the aisle but from his own party most of all. Instead, it will be met with a timid shrug, for who in the Republican Party wants to be on the president’s enemies list? What if one day it is their name which must obscured from his sight lest he throw a tantrum?
John McCain, dead and departed, has more courage than all of the elected Rs in Washington DC combined. No amount of maneuvering by the president to obscure John McCain’s name will make Americans forget the name of the man who faithfully, and with great personal sacrifice, served this nation his entire adult life.
The party who has screamed about the NFL kneelers disrespecting the flag and, by extension, the military, should be deeply and profoundly ashamed of their hypocrisy today.