In his column, talkRADIO presenter Michael Graham gives a conservative viewpoint on current issues.
If you’re confused by President Donald Trump’s reluctance to celebrate the life of Senator John McCain, who died on August 25, if his absence from the funeral observations seems odd, don’t worry, Great Britain, it’s not you.
It’s him. Or rather, President Trump’s base.
The conservative base of the Republican Party has long had a problematic relationship with the Arizona senator. For years, John McCain was the most prominent practitioner of the kind of Republicanism they loathed, the kind of Republicanism that eventually led many of these voters to turn to Donald Trump in the first place.
In fact, you could say that John McCain gave America the Donald Trump presidency.
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New Hampshire political consultant Michael Dennehy, who worked extensively on McCain’s 2000 campaign sees a parallel in McCain and Trump: Their willingness to ignore the party leaders, say what’s on their minds and give people “straight talk.”
But conservative voters, particularly the ones who backed border security and tax cuts, noticed that McCain seemed to reserve his “straightest” - most blunt and disparaging - talk for them.
In McCain’s world, Trump voters were “crazies” - after a 2015 Trump rally in Arizona, McCain told the New Yorker: “What he did was he fired up the crazies”.
When Sen. McCain was losing badly to Sen. Barack Obama, he pulled Gov. Sarah Palin out of obscurity to rescue his failing campaign. It worked (in the short term, at least). But when it was all over and the media pile-on of Palin was complete, McCain threw her under the bus, saying later:
And he meant it. Which may explain why the woman he chose to be the Vice President of the United States wasn’t invited to any of his funeral observances.
In the eyes of the GOP base, this is McCain insulting them yet again. Something he did so often during his career.
And now, the same Republicans McCain trashed are being trashed yet again for not fully celebrating the life of a guy who despised them.
President Trump knows this, which is probably one reason why he’s been so reluctant to issue the sort of eulogy the media are demanding, and why he left Washington, DC on Friday as the observances in the Capitol began.
Sure, there’s another reason Trump’s behaving the way he is: He really, really hated John McCain. And, once again, the feeling was apparently mutual. Proactively disinviting the sitting president from your own funeral isn’t exactly “reaching across the political divide.”
Should President Trump be the bigger man? Should he celebrate the life of an American hero who suffered so much for our nation, its uniform and its flag?
That would be great.
But Trump isn’t playing to the media, he’s playing to his base. And Trump knows what his supporters know: The praise of Sen. McCain coming from Democrats and the media is in fact praise of McCain’s willingness to support them: Their positions, their politics and their antipathy toward the Americans who made Trump president.
To many of these same Republicans, John McCain is still a hero. And it’s true he was willing to tell people tough things they didn’t want to hear. But it’s hard not to notice that he reserved his toughest talk for his fellow Republicans.
Michael is on talkRADIO on Saturdays from 10pm-1am