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The fallout to Trump’s attacks on McCain

The 360 is a feature designed to show you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Speed read

What’s happening: Sen. John McCain died more than seven months ago, but President Trump seems intent on keeping the pair’s long, caustic feud alive, and has railed against the late war hero repeatedly in recent public remarks. Trump told U.S. Army tank factory workers in Ohio that he wasn’t thanked for giving McCain “the kind of funeral he wanted.” In a White House meeting with the president of Brazil, he said, “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.” And he tweeted an accusation that McCain spread “the fake and totally discredited Dossier” that purported to link Trump to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Why it’s sparking debate: The spate of criticism has enraged McCain supporters, sparked public comments from his wife, Cindy McCain, and daughter Meghan McCain, and baffled some Trump backers who say the attacks are doing more harm to the president than he may realize.

Sen. Mitt Romney said, “I can’t understand why the president would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain.” Arizona Sen. Martha McSally said she defended McCain to the president. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime friend of McCain, said, “When it comes to criticizing Sen. McCain and his service, I think that’s a huge mistake.”

What’s next: Cindy McCain shared a tweet that attacked her family, and is now calling on supporters to “protect John’s legacy” with a new letter encouraging people to donate to his charitable organization, the McCain Institute Foundation. A growing number of Republicans say they want Trump to stop talking about McCain, but it’s unclear whether their words will have an impact.

Perspectives

Trump’s strange posthumous attacks on McCain hurt only himself.

“McCain’s life on Earth has ended. His legacy as a great American patriot, hero and exemplary public servant is beyond revision. The person who suffers most from the strange, posthumous attacks by the president is the president himself. Respectfully, the president should let McCain rest in peace and give his family the peace they deserve during this difficult time after his death.” – Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, Washington Post

McCain will always be a war hero, but his handling of Trump conspiracy theories deserves criticism.

“As long as Americans remember the bravery of our military, they will recall the courage of John McCain during his captivity in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison operated by the communist government of North Vietnam. But Americans should also recognize that Mr. McCain’s role in promoting unverified conspiracy theories generated by the President’s political opponents was not the late senator’s finest hour.” – Wall Street Journal editorial

The media and elite Washington are exploiting McCain’s legacy to kneecap Trump.

“President Trump’s harmless remarks against McCain’s record are treated like an antigen. Every national news outlet, Democrat and effete Republican, swarms Trump in hopes of killing whatever foreign thing he’s injecting into the body. Most people don’t care that Trump has a grudge against McCain, but anyone watching closely understands what’s happening. Washington, led by the national media, is using the memory of McCain to kneecap Trump.” – Eddie Scarry, Washington Examiner

Trump’s words could encourage violence and we should not normalize his speech.

“I believe we too often normalize what Trump says, failing to take seriously the potential impact of his language. … If more elected leaders don’t force Trump to stop preaching hate, by refusing to do business with him, approving an official censure or helping to vote him out, we can expect more of these cases of abuse — not to mention the continued potential for violence. Those who do not stand up and speak out on this matter can only be pegged as enablers and themselves be seen as complicit.” – Richard Cherwitz, CNN

Trump’s attacks are stirring the better angels of some Republican McCain defenders.

“That dynamic may not last, but for the moment, McCain’s supporters are on the right side of history and showing others how, amid the chaos and the insults, they can still respond to the better angels of their nature.” – Timothy L. O’Brien, Bloomberg

But more Republicans should have the courage to rebuke Trump.

“Lawmakers like McCain courageously stepped forward to confront Trump’s dangerous policies; others now need to assume that mantle. We must always fight for what is right and hold those in elected office accountable — even when it’s unpopular to do so, and even if the president of the United States might make you the next target of one of his shameful attacks.” – Ashley Pratte, NBC News

The idea that Trump’s attacks fulfill his promise to voters confirms he is a scam.

“Thus, the narrative Trumpworld is spinning is that, in attacking McCain, Trump is standing up for his voters, by going after a symbol of the GOP elites he campaigned against and of the deep-state forces working against the will of those voters, and those who blocked him from delivering on his health-care promises.” – Greg Sargent, Washington Post

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