Senator John McCain of Arizona called on Donald J. Trump to make amends to veterans for his belittling comments about prisoners of war and suggested he would be unlikely to appear on a stage with Mr. Trump until that happened. Mr. McCain has committed to supporting Mr. Trump as the Republican nominee for president. But in an interview that aired on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Mr. McCain expressed deep dismay at the tenor of the Republican presidential race, saying Mr. Trump make amends to "a body of American heroes" he had offended.
At various times over the last year or so, Donald Trump has made insulting comments towards, well, just about everyone. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has gone out of his way to alienate Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, people with disabilities, and women, among others.
Trump isn't fond of apologies, but at least with regard to one group of Americans, John McCain would like to hear some contrition from his party's presidential candidate.
According to the network's transcript, the senator was asked whether he'd agree to share a stage with Trump. McCain hedged, saying, "I think it's important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans, not John McCain, but veterans who were incarcerated as prisoners of war. What he said about me, John McCain, that's fine. I don't require any repair of that. But when he said, 'I don't like people who were captured,' then there's a great body -- there's a body of American heroes that I would -- that I would like to see him retract that statement, not about me, but about the others."
Let's unwrap this a bit, because it seems important given the perilous state of McCain's career.
First, it's unfortunate for the senator to pick and choose like this. Trump thinks Mexican immigrants are rapists? McCain doesn't expect a retraction. Trump thinks all Muslims should be barred from entering the United States? McCain doesn't expect a retraction on this, either. But Trump goes after veterans while questioning McCain's military service? The senator is willing to give his party's presumptive nominee a pass on the other insults, but not the one that involves McCain directly.
Second, McCain isn't establishing any real conditions to his support. The Arizona Republican will back his party's nominee, apparently whether or not Trump retracts his insulting comments about veterans. Indeed, in the same CNN interview, just moments earlier, McCain also said Trump "could be a capable leader."
I have no idea whether McCain actually believes this, but that's his story and he's sticking to it.
As for McCain's request for an apology, what happens if Trump ignores the senator's call? Evidently, nothing.
The longtime senator, facing a difficult re-election fight this year, is noticeably worried about running on the same ticket as Trump. But if McCain has a strategy to mitigate the damage, it's not at all clear what that plan entails.