Rather than issue the typical memorial statement that most human U.S. presidents have issued following the death of political opponents, current President Donald Trump instead apparently nixed a proposed message memorializing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Instead, he tweeted a brief comment on Saturday evening that said basically nothing at all, raised the White House flags back from half-staff, and went back to whining about the media.
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018
On Monday morning, Trump’s former legislative affairs director offered an explanation for the president’s pettiness that took the “blame the press” strategy to a new level.
Asked by CNN about the lack of a sympathetic message from the president, the network’s paid Trump defender Marc Short first suggested that maybe Trump was just hiding his sadness from the public. When pressed by host John Berman about this surprising suggestion, Short quickly backtracked and instead posited that the president could not have issued a positive statement about his former rival because the press would not let him do so.
“I guess the question back to you would be if the president were to take the steps, would the media cover that and say, ‘what a graceful statement by the president,'” he asked, “or simply go and dissect statements and say ‘it’s disingenuous statement and here’s the things they disagreed with on the past,’ as opposed to saying let’s keep the focus on Senator McCain’s family and allow him to celebrate his life without injecting more politics into this?”
Short must not have noticed that just four months ago, Trump and his wife issued a more substantive memorial message following the death of former First Lady and Trump critic Barbara Bush. Somehow, the media managed to mention this without that sort of dissection.
So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave – American hero! Thank you John.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Trump did tweet a statement praising McCain as “brave” and an “American hero” back in July 2017, when he believed the Arizona Republican would vote for his Trumpcare legislation that would strip millions of Americans of their health insurance. When McCain did not do so, the president went back to insulting him at every turn, right up until the senator died.