Reportedly, the White House nixed a formal statement honoring recently-deceased Senator John McCain, a staunch Republican but also consistent critic of President Donald Trump. Apparently, many within the White House, including Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chief of Staff John Kelly, pushed for the statement but President Trump ultimately decided to go with a simple tweet.
Insiders report that the statement would have honored Senator McCain’s war record and labeled him as a “hero.” The statement had been written up before McCain passed away and was ready to hit the press. Regardless, Trump declined to have it published. On Twitter, President Trump wrote:
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
Some critics have pointed out that the statement does not contain much in the way of praise for McCain or his accomplishments. Past presidents have often been quick to praise former political rivals and adversaries. Indeed, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who both faced McCain in tough election battles, have written touching eulogies.
McCain’s Complicated Legacy
McCain’s legacy is complicated. He was held in captivity for five and a half years, refusing an opportunity to be released earlier. Doing so would have demoralized his fellow prisoners and would have been a violation of the Navy’s Code of Conduct.
Over the years, McCain has occasionally bucked his political party, voting against important bills, such as repealing Obamacare. This has earned him a reputation as a maverick. That maverick attitude has also drawn the ire of President Donald Trump.
Back in October of 2016, McCain withdrew his support for then-nominee Donald Trump over the Billy Bush tapes, which featured the President using some rather crude words. From that point onwards, McCain became one of the most outspoken Trump critics on the right side of the Congressional aisle.
Besides his rivalry with Trump, McCain has been accused of starting the USS Forrestal fire, in which 134 people were killed. Accusations claim that McCain tried to “wet-start” his plane, using extra fuel that ultimately ignited a rocket. Fact-checking website Snopes claims that the accusation is false.
Others note that McCain once told an impoverished husband suffering from brain cancer to move out of Arizona because healthcare was not a human right. Snopes found evidence that suggested that the story may be true, but was unable to verify. Either way, McCain was never known as a proponent for expanding access to health care.
McCain Getting Little Love from Arizona Candidates
McCain had represented Arizona in Congress since 1983, first in the House for two terms before joining the Senate. Despite his long history of service to the state, Arizona Republican candidates currently campaigning to replace Senator Jeff Flake, another staunch Trump critic, have largely ignored McCain’s passing.
One candidate, Kelli Ward, even went as far as to allege that McCain’s announcement that he was discontinuing cancer treatment was timed specifically to hurt her campaign. She has since deleted the Facebook post rendering that assertion. McCain died shortly thereafter. Martha McSally, on the other hand, had kinder words to offer:
John McCain was one of Arizona’s greatest Senators, one of our country’s finest statesmen, and an American hero who risked his life to defend this great nation. He loved this state, and he loved this country.
— Martha McSally (@RepMcSally) August 26, 2018
Meanwhile, Joe Arpaio reportedly tweeted his “thoughts and prayers” to Cindy McCain, who subsequently blocked him, setting off a public spat. Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump for various charges relating to his treatment of undocumented immigrants in his custody.
Besides his career in the Senate, McCain also challenged George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary, putting in a stiff challenge but ultimately falling short. In 2008, he secured the GOP nomination but couldn’t overcome rising star Barack Obama. Senator McCain is survived by his wife, Cindy, and seven children.