Donald Trump's response to John McCain's death has been cringe-worthy, even by the low standards of this presidency. Trump's reluctance to acknowledge the Republican senator's lifetime of service, coupled with the White House's handling of the flag that flies from its roof, has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum.
There was, however, one prominent voice that stood up to make the case that late senator bears some responsibility for the president's petulant antics. CNN reported last night:
Republican Sen. James Inhofe told reporters Monday that Sen. John McCain was "partially to blame" for the controversy over the lowering of the White House flag.Inhofe, a senior member of Senate Armed Services Committee, was highly complimentary of McCain but when asked about the flag flap he attributed it to the late senator's public spat with President Donald Trump in recent years. He described both men as "strong willed people."
The Oklahoma Republican reportedly said, "Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken. He disagreed with the president in certain areas and wasn't too courteous about it."
Right. Because if there's one person who's committed to courteous disagreement, and who has no use for outspokenness, it's Donald J. Trump Sr.
But I think the point New York's Jon Chait raised in response to the GOP senator's comments is an important one: "[B]y suggesting that Trump ordered the raising of the flag as retaliation against his deceased adversary, Inhofe is assuming a fact that news reporters have only speculated."
Quite right. To hear Inhofe tell it, the Trump White House lowered, then raised, then lowered again its American flag because John McCain occasionally hurt the sensitive president's feelings. Though we've all assumed Trump really is that petty and small, neither the president nor anyone on his team has confirmed such a motivation. As Jon added, Inhofe treated these assumptions as fact.
In other words, the Oklahoman assumed Trump has the temperament of a spoiled child -- and Inhofe believes the president would have been more respectful of McCain's memory if the late senator had been a little nicer to Trump.
It's a difficult perspective to understand. By Inhofe's reasoning, those who expect the sitting president to honor his or her name in death better make an effort to stay on Trump's good side.
As for the president, the Washington Post reported overnight that Trump "was frustrated with the TV coverage and felt besieged -- that nothing he said about McCain would be enough. Trump also suggested to advisers that many of those speaking out on television were merely looking for reasons to attack him and that some of the same people now praising McCain previously did not like the senator."
No matter the circumstances, this president sees himself as a victim.
* Postscript: For the record, in this Congress, McCain has served as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He'll likely be replaced by ... wait for it ... James Inhofe.