We can understand that President Donald Trump was still reeling from what has been described as the worst week in his presidency, but he clearly failed again on his public reaction to the passing of a genuine American hero – Senator John McCain.
Immediately after the news spread, Mr. Trump tweeted two sentences offering his sympathies to the family of the beloved senator. That was it.
It would take several days before he would speak out and grudgingly give the proper homage to a man who was respected by both sides of the political aisle. Some of his fellow Republicans and many of the Democrats in the Senate may have had serious disagreements with McCain over the decades, but everyone knew the former prisoner of war was always true to himself and the principles he believed in.
Mr. Trump also had many issues with the senator, and he came close to acting so churlish as to demean the presidency. Mr. Trump seemingly balked at the lowering of the flag to half staff in the White House, but relented when veterans groups aired their displeasure at the lack of respect for one of their own.
One can count with the fingers of one hand the number of people who do not believe that John McCain was a genuine American hero. His history is known to all. As a pilot during the Vietnam War, he was shot down and consequently spent more than five years in captivity.
He was tortured mercilessly and carried the marks of those punishments his entire life. And when he was given the opportunity to be set free, he refused because there were other captives who had been POWs longer than him.
Upon his return, he went into politics and spent the rest of his life as a public servant, first in the House and later in the Senate. He would be perpetually referred to as a “maverick” with good reason. His principles always took priority over party loyalty.
His passing this week was expected and when it finally came, the president had every opportunity to be the magnanimous leader we all want. Mr. Trump could have acknowledged the differences he had with McCain and still pay tribute to the man who devoted his life in service of the American people.
He didn’t. After that meaningless tweet, he came up with a statement that for all intents was prepared by a White House staffer devoid of all feeling.
No one was expecting to praise McCain to high heavens. A few well chosen words would have sufficed.
Instead, he hemmed and hawed at lowering the flag, and could not even say anything when reporters asked him about the passing of McCain.
This as countless leaders paid their respects to the man, including the leadership of Vietnam. And the two men who deprived McCain of the US presidency – George W Bush and Barack Obama — will speak at his memorial service. That’s what respect is all about.
Whether Mr. Trump likes it or not, John McCain will be sorely missed by almost all of us.