UPDATE: After refusing to answer several questions from journalists, the White House once again lowered the U.S. flag to half staff in honor of the recently deceased Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Confusion and questions came about after the flag had been raised on Monday morning, less than two days after it had been lowered. Originally ordered to be at half staff after McCain had died, the first order by President Donald Trump to lower the flag did not come from an official proclamation, creating uncertainty as to what duration it would remain at half staff.
On Monday morning, journalists noted that the flag was raised back to full staff, an unusual move for the White House to do when recognizing lawmakers or remarkable individuals following their passing. Typically, the flag atop the White House remains at half staff until the individual being honored has been interned.
Other executive department buildings still had their flags lowered to half staff, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Flag atop the White House’s Executive Office Building is still fully raised now, even as the White House goes to half staff.— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) August 27, 2018
When journalists tried to question the president directly about McCain, his death, and whether Trump considered him a “war hero,” he ignored their questions completely, refusing to acknowledge or answer them.
"Why won't you say anything about John McCain?"@jonkarl asked Pres. Trump ten times today to comment on Senator John McCain, who passed away this weekend at age 81. The president did not respond. https://t.co/HebITj8csN pic.twitter.com/iwKYhGRaNj— ABC News (@ABC) August 27, 2018
Later on Monday, the president at last issued an official proclamation authorizing the lowering of flags across the nation.
“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,” the president said in a statement.
UPDATE: Moments ago flag atop White House lowered back down to half-staff. President has authority to extend period to honor death of a Senator, all day WH has refused to answer q’s about why the flag was at full staff this AM after death of Senator McCain. @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/eQWg3AQVsQ— Paula Reid (@PaulaReidCBS) August 27, 2018
To some people, the actions to fix the situation were too little, too late. CNN’s Jim Acosta, for example, pointed out the absurdity of the ordeal, making it clear that he felt the president failed once again to do what was right from the outset.
“It took nearly 48 hours for WH to do what should have been done Saturday — issue a full, respectful statement honoring McCain along with a proclamation that orders flags to fly at half-staff,” he wrote.
Make no mistake. The president and his team had every opportunity to get this right. It took nearly 48 hours for WH to do what should have been done Saturday -- issue a full, respectful statement honoring McCain along with a proclamation that orders flags to fly at half-staff.— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 27, 2018
The back-and-forth of the flag flying at half, then full, then half mast again, symbolizes an important aspect of the Trump presidency: Until he’s called out for doing something wrong, and unless the pushback for his wrongdoing is strong enough, he will dig his heels in deep until he realizes he can’t do so any longer.
When he finally realizes how egregious everyone else in America sees his actions as being, only then will he begrudgingly do the right thing and reverse course.
That it took this kind of pushback, on social media and elsewhere, to show respect for McCain, demonstrates just how much contempt and malice Trump had for the late statesman. It’s also demonstrative of what lengths he’s willing to go to hold onto his grudges.
President Donald Trump is finding new and reprehensible ways to snub the late United States Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) even after his death, proving that the commander-in-chief’s penchant for holding grudges against others extends even after they've ceased living.
This time, Trump has apparently used the U.S. flag as a means to snub McCain once more, as flags over the White House returned to full mast, going against the length of time they traditionally fly at half mast for other lawmakers who have passed away.
It was a stunning display of Trump's animosity toward the senator, and a hypocritical one at that, given the president's heavy insistence on demanding respect for the American flag that he's made in the past. Using a flag as a prop to show disdain toward another individual is about as low as one can get regarding respect for the emblem.
The move followed a weekend of underwhelming reaction from the president following McCain's passing. As the rest of the nation shared their respects for the late senator, who died on Saturday at age 81 from glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer), the world waited to see what Trump would say. The two were often at odds with one another, but surely the president wouldn’t allow that animosity to continue during the nation’s grieving process.
Then, it appeared he did.
On Saturday, Trump sent a tweet recognizing McCain’s death — but within that statement, the president didn’t recognize McCain himself, nor his accomplishments, simply using the moment to send his condolences to McCain's family following his passing.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” Trump wrote. “Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
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
Then came word that Trump had prevented White House staffers from issuing an official statement that would have called McCain a “war hero.” The White House had worked on the remarks in the days leading up to McCain’s death and had expected Trump to make the decree official when the senator did pass away — but Trump reportedly nixed the idea, favoring the half-hearted tweet he sent out instead.
On Monday morning, Trump’s public disdain for McCain continued, less than two full days after his death. Reporters in Washington, D.C. noticed that U.S. flags flying over the White House, which Trump had ordered at half mast on Saturday, had returned to their regular position flying at full mast.
The flags at the White House are back at full staff this morning. Traditionally, sitting senators who die in office have flags lowered in their honor from date of death until burial. And we've received no presidential proclamation for McCain.— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) 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.— Karen Travers (@karentravers) August 27, 2018
There was no official proclamation from President Trump (as he has done in the past for other notable figures passing) pic.twitter.com/rmUO6xbtrp
The move to raise the flag back up prematurely prompted California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom to call Trump a "pathetic disgrace."
The move bucked tradition; typically, whenever a lawmaker or significant public figure has the U.S. flag lowered in their honor, the flag remains at half mast until at least their funeral.
Trump, however, did not issue an official proclamation for the flags to be lowered (which also went against the norm), so it was unclear for how long he intended to keep the flags lowered. Apparently, less than two days was all the president felt McCain deserved.
The Capitol flags, flying over the building in which McCain served as part of the legislative branch since 1982, remained at half staff.
Trump is apparently unable to behave like an adult during this emotional time for the country. While McCain wasn’t himself a perfect individual, his heroics while living as a prisoner of war, as well as the immense amount of respect he earned within Congress (and across the nation at-large), deserves better recognition than what Trump has provided.
The president seems to be determined to show the late senator the least amount of respect he can, fulfilling the bare minimum of pageantries he must carry out for the statesman following his death.
McCain deserved much more than a tweet and a mere weekend of lowering the flag. It’s a shame that the president presently in office won’t do more on behalf of the people of this nation, who want to show their admiration for the late senator in a more respectful and honorable way.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters