Few things are more important to President Trump than trampling over the lives of those he feels have wronged him. Venerated war heroes are no exception, as he’s demonstrated through his repeated attacks against former Arizona senator John McCain, who did not support Trump’s candidacy and in 2017 voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. The slights have persisted despite McCain’s death last August, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the White House was worried the president might be triggered into bashing him on Memorial Day.
On Wednesday, the WSJ reported that the Navy went to astonishing lengths to obscure the USS John S. McCain so the president wouldn’t have to lay eyes on the name of his departed nemesis while he was visiting troops stationed in Japan last weekend. Here are some details:
- A tarp was hung over the name of the ship.
- Soldiers were directed to remove any coverings featuring the ship’s name.
- Once the tarp was removed, a barge was positioned in front of the ship’s name.
- The ship’s sailors were given the day off, lest the president see their caps bearing the ship’s name.
The efforts to keep the ship “out of sight,” as an email reviewed by the WSJ described it, reportedly arose out of conversations between the White House Military Office and the Navy fleet stationed in Japan. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said he was unaware of the directive and that he has instructed his chief of staff to look into the matter.
Two sources confirm to @CNBC that this is the email showing coordinated efforts to put the USS John McCain “out of sight.”
— Amanda Macias (@amanda_m_macias) May 30, 2019
When asked about the directive on Thursday morning, Trump said he “didn’t know anything about it,” and that he “would never have done that.”
“Somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him,” he added. “And they were well-meaning.”
Trump first denied having any knowledge of the plans in a tweet posted Wednesday night. “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!” he wrote.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
This may very well be true, but it doesn’t mean the White House didn’t have reason to be concerned that the president laying eyes on McCain’s name could have led to a Memorial Day rant against the deceased war hero. Trump, who has fashioned a large portion of his political persona around a supposed respect for the military, has shown none of it for one of the country’s most notable veterans. It began in 2015, when Trump tried to argue that McCain wasn’t actually a war hero because he was captured. His resentment intensified after McCain cast the deciding “no” vote on a Trump-backed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s greatest legislative accomplishment. When McCain died of a brain tumor last August, Trump was not invited to the funeral.
McCain’s death hasn’t dissuaded Trump from attacking him. In March, he tweeted that McCain “spreading” the Steel dossier — which played a role in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia — was “a very dark stain against” the late senator. He then attacked McCain’s college grades, while false claiming McCain provided a copy of the dossier to the FBI before the election (he actually did so after the election). While speaking at a tank factory in Ohio a few days later, Trump said McCain “didn’t get the job done” for veterans, and complained that no one thanked him for allowing McCain to have a proper funeral. “I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said. “I don’t care about this. I didn’t get a thank-you. That’s OK. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”
On Wednesday night, McCain’s daughter, Meghan, responded to the Trump administration’s latest affront to her father’s legacy. “Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” she tweeted. “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.”