McCain wins the final round of his rivalry with Trump in his farewell to the American people

  • Sen. John McCain’s office has issued a farewell statement to the American people.
  • The statement slammed President Donald Trump’s policies without mentioning his name.
  • Trump led a confused White House response to a self-inflicted controversy caused by the White House not keeping flags at half-staff.
  • Trump eventually relowered flags and made a statement saying he respected McCain.
  • McCain let his final feelings toward Trump be known by not inviting him to his funeral.

As President Donald Trump drew increasing scrutiny over his reaction to Sen. John McCain’s death, McCain’s office issued a farewell statement to the American people on Monday in which McCain slammed Trump’s policies without mentioning the president by name.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and longtime party leadership figure, and Trump – a political neophyte whose wide grip on the party dates back less than two years – had long been rivals.

Most notably on the 2016 campaign trail, Trump questioned McCain’s status as a war hero. During the Vietnam War, McCain survived North Vietnamese forces shooting down his bomber, a failed ejection that shattered three of his limbs, savage beatings in captivity, and a stint as a prisoner of war wherein he refused early release to favour other US captives.

The two frequently sparred on issues of decorum. McCain also dealt a death blow to Trump’s bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act, severely setting back the president’s legislative agenda.

If McCain’s feelings toward Trump were not already clear, they perhaps became so by McCain’s asking Trump not to attend his funeral and rebuking him amid his final words to the country.

From McCain’s farewell:

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”

Trump’s controversial response to McCain’s death

Since McCain died Saturday, Trump has come under fire for a confused and possibly disrespectful response to the death of an American who served his country for 60 years.

In his initial statement after McCain’s death, Trump did not include any praise of McCain, only wishing McCain’s family well. Later, Trump’s White House bucked the long-established custom of flying flags at half-staff from the time of a senator’s death to his or her burial.

The White House and the Pentagon, buildings under control of the executive branch, raised their flags after the minimum period required by law, while Congress continued to keep its flags low.

“I doubt you could find a comparable situation where the president doesn’t order the flag flown at half-mast until the funeral,” John Lawrence, a history professor at the University of California’s Washington Center, told Reuters.

“The disparity between the Congress and White House policy is obviously noticeable and somewhat shocking.”

The flags returned to half-staff by the end of Monday, however, along with a statement from Trump that struck a more conciliatory note after hours of pressure from veterans groups.

“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honour, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” the statement said.

While criticising divisive politics, McCain’s statement also laid out a vision of how the country could recover.

From McCain:

“We are three hundred and twenty five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.”

Read McCain’s full farewell below:

“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans.

“Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favourably against them.

“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

“I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

“‘Fellow Americans’ – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

“We are three hundred and twenty five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

“Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.

“I feel it powerfully still.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

“Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

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