Trump has ordered the lowering of the White House flag back to half-staff after it was re-raised on Monday, less than 48 hours after it was initially lowered following the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain on Saturday.
In the face of scathing bipartisan backlash and immense pressure from all quarters, Trump was left with no option but to sign the proclamation to fly the flag at half-staff again, until the senator was laid to rest.
So intense and relentless were the attacks against the decision to prematurely re-raise the flag that the presidential decree came within hours of what was a disrespectful move against a national hero – a true son of the soil.
“On the behalf of The American Legion’s two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment,” the American Legion’s national commander Denise Rohan demanded in a statement addressed to Trump.
Two of Washington's great landmarks are showing something different this morning:
-All flags at the U.S. Capitol are flying at half staff in honor of the late Senator John McCain.
-The White house flags are now at full staff after they were lowered over the weekend. pic.twitter.com/FNHJSi2GBf
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) August 27, 2018
Flags at the White House were lowered to half staff this weekend for the passing of John McCain but this morning they are back to full staff.
There was no official proclamation from President Trump (as he has done in the past for other notable figures passing) pic.twitter.com/rmUO6xbtrp
— Karen Travers (@karentravers) August 27, 2018
If you're surprised at all that the Trump White House would do the absolute bare minimum required by law when it comes to the flag being lowered to honor Senator McCain, you clearly have no concept of the kind of petty man that sits in the Oval Office.
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) August 27, 2018
“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” Trump said in a statement.
A celebrated war hero and former presidential candidate, the Republican senator passed away after a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an extremely malignant form of brain cancer. McCain was 81.
My family is deeply appreciative of all the love and generosity you have shown us during this past year. Thank you for all your continued support and prayers. We could not have made it this far without you – you've given us strength to carry on. pic.twitter.com/KuAQSASoa7
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 24, 2018
Trump’s disdain for McCain and the acrimony that existed between the two Republicans are pretty well-documented.
The fact that Trump desisted from commenting on the senator and his legacy, despite repeated requests from reporters, further confirms his intense dislike for the man – so much that even his death couldn’t elicit a few words of respect from the president.
All that the Trump could initially manage was his “deepest sympathies and respect” to the senator’s family on Twitter.
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
However, in what seemed like an attempt at damage control, after the barrage of criticism and rebuke he was subjected to for his tepid response to McCain’s death and for raising the White House flag to full-staff way too soon, Trump came out with a few measured words in honor of the senator, on Monday.
Adding to his half-staff proclamation statement, Trump said that he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence to honor McCain in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
“I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday,” the president said.
“At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy. Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at his services,” he added.
At a dinner of evangelical supporters that evening, Trump said, “We very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country.”
“It sounds like in the end, he probably decided it was a political loser to continue to hold out on this,” CBC News quoted William Howell, a University of Chicago lecturer and an expert on presidential powers, as saying.
“I don’t know who got into his ear that changed his mind, but the [reports] that his very closest advisers — his chief of staff and his press secretary — both recommended to him earlier that he recognize John McCain as a hero, suggests that the pressure was as close as it could be,” Howell told CBC, claims the news channel.
The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump was, in fact, much more charitable in her tribute to the departed senator than her father, calling him an “American patriot” and a “true hero,” while speaking at a women’s empowerment event in Washington, D.C.
“As we gather here today I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Sen John McCain –an American patriot who served our country with distinction for more than six decades,” said Ms.Trump.
“The nation is united in its grief and the world mourns the loss of a true hero and a great statesman,” she added.