This is a brief tale of two politicians.
One of them is Donald J. Trump; the other is John S. McCain III. They have an intense dislike for each other. They’re both of the same political party; they’re Republicans.
Trump entered politics in June 2015 when he decided to run for president of the United States. It was his first political campaign. He’d never sought any other public office. He touted his wealth and his business acumen. He promised to “make America great again.”
He got elected president.
McCain has been in politics for a long time. He retired from the Navy and then was elected to the U.S. House from Arizona. Then he went on to the Senate. He’s been in public office for more than three decades. Oh, and he was a fighter pilot who in 1967 got shot down over Hanoi, North Vietnam. He was captured and held as a prisoner for the rest of the Vietnam War.
While running for president, Trump was asked about McCain’s service and whether he considered the former POW a “war hero.” Trump’s answer is still echoing. “He’s a war hero because he got captured,” Trump said. “I like people who aren’t captured.”
McCain heard that. I’m wondering: Do you suppose he took serious offense at that snarky response? Do you believe he felt disrespected, that the candidate denigrated his service? And how do you suppose McCain felt knowing that Trump avoided service in the war that took such a savage toll on his own body? McCain was injured badly when his plane was shot down. He suffered broken limbs that never were set properly by his captors. He endured torture, isolation, and intense verbal and emotional abuse.
The public service stories of these two men cannot be more different. One of them had zero public service experience until he assumed his high office; the other man spent years in the military before becoming a politician. He paid dearly for his military service.
The men’s political journeys crossed not long ago when McCain ended up voting “no” on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, something that Trump wanted. He had banked on McCain to be on his side. McCain would have none of it.
McCain, by the way, had just been diagnosed as having a malignant brain tumor. He came back to the Capitol Building to cast his “no” vote.
I am left to ponder now — weeks after Sen. McCain cast that fateful vote against ACA repeal — whether Donald Trump doomed the ACA vote with that idiotic, disrespectful and utterly gratuitous dig at a war hero’s service to his country.
In a perfect world, public policy shouldn’t hinge on personal slights. I think it did this time. I’m glad it did. John McCain deserved better than he got from the man who would become president. But he delivered his response with perfection.
Donald Trump had it coming.
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