McCain beyond the grave… death gives life to political fight with Trump
US President Donald Trump is being assailed in the US media for not showing sufficient respect to McCain following the latter’s passing away at the weekend from brain cancer.
The president reportedly nixed the release of an official White House statement praising McCain as a “war hero” – preferring instead to offer terse condolence via Twitter.
Then when other government buildings opted to continue flying the national flag at half-mast for the week until McCain’s funeral this Sunday, there was a media outcry over the White House restoring the flag to full mast, only two days after the senator’s death was announced last Saturday.
Trump has since relented to the pressure by ordering the flag at the White House to be lowered again for the remainder of the week. He also issued a fuller statement acknowledging McCain’s “military service to the country.”
The notorious rancor between the two men has not been buried, it seems. It has taken on a new life. The fact that McCain left instructions forbidding Trump from attending his funeral suggests that the recriminations were premeditated by the dying senator.
One also suspects that the lavish mourning of McCain in the media is being used by Trump’s political enemies as a way to undermine the president. That would explain why so much public effort is being made to glorify the Vietnam-era navy pilot and prisoner of war as a national hero. The outpouring of media grief and extolment seems disproportionate given McCain’s dubious record as a politician.
The more McCain is exalted, the more Trump is made to appear unworthy, so his enemies are calculating.
Trump first crossed swords with the six-term Arizonan Republican senator during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he deprecated McCain as not being a war hero.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” quipped Trump, referring to McCain’s five-and-a-half-year ordeal as a POW in North Vietnam. That was also seen as a dig at well-worn claims that McCain had collaborated with the Vietnamese enemy during his incarceration after being tortured.
Those earlier comments earned Trump widespread rebukes in the US media with whom McCain was a favorite political figure. Over the decades, he topped networks for number of appearances and interviews compared with other politicians. The self-styled “maverick” was always good for a soundbite.
The spat continued over the past two years since Trump’s election, with a dying McCain joining in the recent political and media furore slamming Trump for meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month. McCain gave gravitas to media claims of Trump being a “traitor.”
That is another reason why Republican hawk McCain was such a popular figure with US news media and Democrats. His strident anti-Russia views provided grist to the mill in the campaign to portray Trump as a “Kremlin stooge” beholden to Putin. By maximizing the media paeans to McCain this week, it is no doubt a deliberate orchestration in order to push the Trump-Russia collusion narrative – a narrative which otherwise should be jettisoned for lack of credibility.
The recriminations with Trump were further resurrected with the posthumous publication this week of a deathbed letter authored by McCain. In it, he makes a veiled jibe at Trump’s politics. He also makes an appeal for the nation to unite around supposed American ideals.
The death of McCain is taking on a surreal and sordid aspect of infighting and vendetta.
At the forthcoming state-level funeral ceremony this weekend, it is reported that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush were requested by McCain to lead the eulogies. This show of bipartisan politics between Democrats and Republicans in mourning a “national hero” is a way for the American establishment to rally the nation in common cause.
The fact that Trump has been pointedly excluded from the funeral is an attempt to isolate and undermine the president whom large sections of the US political and media establishment – both Democrat and Republican – have never accepted, waging a media war against his presidency for the past two years.
There are several important reasons why McCain is being glorified. For one, his beatification in the media allows a whitewashing of America’s criminal war record, from Vietnam through to Afghanistan and Iraq, among other imperialist ventures.
By bestowing ‘hero’ status on McCain, then all wars he participated in and advocated are suitably transformed into noble causes. For official US national myth-making and laundering of its blood-soaked image that is a highly valuable service.
Another reason why McCain is being venerated with such obsequiousness is that it allows Washington and the media to generate a flattering image of American politics. The late senator is being reinvented as “an internationalist,” a “defender of the liberal order,” and a paragon of “American ideals.”
Such honoring is contradicted by the record of McCain’s political conduct. He was an arch proponent of American unilateral use of military force, not respect for international law. He was an incorrigible militarist, a warmonger. His support for jihadists in Syria and Neo-Nazis in Ukraine was shameful, not heroic.
On domestic US policies, McCain was a keen supporter of big business, pro-rich tax policies, and for taxpayer-citizens propping up the corporate profit trough known as the military-industrial complex.
McCain is being lionized as a unifying patriot who “put country above politics,” when in fact he was anything but. During his failed run for the presidency in 2008 against Barack Obama, it was McCain who opted to make the unhinged, right-wing crackpot Sarah Palin his running mate. Observers note that in that move, McCain brought the Republican party’s racist, nativist fringes decisively into the mainstream, long before Trump arrived on the political scene.
So when McCain in his deathbed letter calls for the rejection of “tribalism” and the right-wing nationalism of Trump, his words of “unity” and “American greatness” sound distinctly hollow.
In time-honored fashion, American myth-making over John McCain is being fast-tracked this week. Instead of seeing this figure as a bitter and divisive one who was instrumental in fomenting disastrous, criminal wars, McCain is being elevated into almost a political deity.
In a most squalid way, his death is being exploited – seemingly with his foreknowledge and approval – to pursue the political infighting that has gripped the US establishment since Trump’s election.
But the US political class and their media organs are only digging a deeper grave for themselves. By creating a false image of McCain, the nation is only being driven into further contempt.
By using McCain’s death as a rallying point against Trump, the danger is that politics in the US will only become even more fractious and nasty.
Media manipulation of public opinion against Trump – based on contrived issues and falsehoods such as “McCain the liberal order defender” – is likely to reinforce popular discord with the Washington elite.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.