Portrait in smallness

TIM MANNELLO

Williamsport

Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years in Hanoi. He refused early release even after being repeatedly beaten and tortured.

Why? Because an unspoken military rule of honor was to leave in order of capture, and he knew of prisoners who’d been there longer than he had. Nonetheless, at a Christian conservative conference in 2015, at the end of a petty put-down of Sen. McCain, candidate Donald Trump said this of the war veteran: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Many have condemned this display of intentional, vicious pettiness. In describing Trump’s contemptible outburst of deliberate cruelty, Mike Barnacle called the incident “a portrait in smallness.”

What has not been sufficiently noted is that his audience laughed at this denigration of McCain’s suffering and service. Three days later, Trump said he did not regret his attack and boasted that right after his abusive comments, his favorable poll numbers went up 7 points.

A week before Sen. McCain’s death, President Trump signed into law a defense bill called the John S. McCain Defense Authorization Bill.

At the signing ceremony, President Trump did not mention John McCain’s name..

On Aug. 26, 2018, Sen. McCain died, at which time Donald Trump Tweeted this: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Sen. McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

Vice President Mike Pence Tweeted this: Karen and I send our deepest condolences to Cindy and the entire McCain family on the passing of Sen. McCain. We honor his lifetime of service to this nation in our military and in public life. His family and friends will be in our prayers. God bless John McCain.”

Trump’s followers were okay with this “beyond heartless” behavior. Trump’s approval ratings went up again. Morality may be less important than the economy. Decency many be less important than one-upsmanship. “It’s not winning but good sportsmanship” may be just fine for Little Leaguers from all over the world once a year in Williamsport, but, come on, not with practical adults.

It is inaccurate to call all of Trump’s base “deplorables.” Many are fundamentally good people. Among them are my relatives, friends and neighbors. But making an icon out of a small man and praising smallness of the most miniature size possible IS indeed deplorable.

For anyone.

John McCain was a decent man. I know of no one who has used the words “decent” or “decency” and Trump in the same sentence.

What the Tweet has happened to us?

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