The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: john mccain

When Politicians (Sometimes) Understood That Honesty Is The Best Policy

Let me be blunt, please: Most of us ink-stained wretches in the political press corps are complete suckers for candor from politicians when speaking about themselves. Candor can truly be disarming.

Early in the first Reagan term, on Aug. 19, 1981, in a major incident, two Libyan fighter jets attacked two U.S. Navy F-14 fighter jets over the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. Understanding orders to fire if fired upon, the Navy pilots — in a dogfight lasting just one minute — shot both Libyan jets down. His White House staff chose not to wake President Ronald Reagan, who was sleeping in California and was not informed until some six hours later, when he awakened.

This report led to renewed questions about the president's age and possible disengagement from his own administration and his duties as commander in chief. Reagan, who, frankly, did occasionally nod off at less than scintillating briefings, silenced most critics with this rejoinder: "I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency ... even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."

Equally appealing to the cynics on the press bus was presidential candidate and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who, when asked why he had shifted during the South Carolina primary from calling the Confederate flag "a symbol of racism and slavery" to instead maintaining he "understood both sides," publicly confessed his regrets: "I had not just been dishonest." He subsequently admitted: "I had been a coward, and I had severed my own interest from my country's. That was what made the lie unforgivable."

Confession is not only good for the soul but also good for favorable press coverage, which McCain would prove during his presidential campaign when asked what he saw as his own imperfections and defects. Believe me, this is a question which ordinarily elicits from candidates the most self-serving verbal oatmeal, such gems as, "I admit I'm a perfectionist" or, "I sometimes work too hard at the job and shortchange my personal responsibilities."

McCain admitted and accepted full responsibility for the failure, after his five-and-a-half-years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, of his first marriage and added that he had been a lousy student, finishing fifth from last in his graduating class at the United States Naval Academy and admitting that, yes, he did have a quick and bad temper. Americans are mostly grown-ups who know that none of us, most especially those pursuing the presidency, is without sin and serious flaws.

When Republicans controlled the U.S. House, the Senate and the White House, just four short years ago, and were predicting a quick and easy "repeal and replace " of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner gave the press and the public, to say nothing of his fellow GOPers, a dose of candor: "In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time, agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once." That was true then and is still true today.

Just maybe Walt Whitman knew something about the weaknesses of those with a press pass when he wrote: "All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor."

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Patriotism On Full Display —By Chickenhawks Like Trump

Mick Mulvaney was a four-term Republican congressman from South Carolina with a reputation as a hawk on government spending in 2017 when President Donald Trump chose him to be director of the Office of Budget and Management, the nation's top fiscal officer. Mulvaney held that position until December 2018, when Trump named him "acting" White House chief of staff , a position he held until March 2020 when the president replaced him with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows.

Read Now Show less

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Trump: ‘I’m Very Glad’ That McCain Is Dead And Gone

There is truly no bottom for Trump’s morally depraved behavior.

While speaking at a conference to religious conservatives on Wednesday, Trump once again disparaged the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), this time saying he’s glad McCain is dead and suggesting that the Arizonan is in hell.

The comment came during a riff on how Republicans failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, blaming the failure on McCain’s infamous thumbs-down vote against the GOP plan that would have caused millions to lose their health insurance.

“We needed 60 votes. And we had 51 votes. And sometimes, you know, we had a little hard time with a couple of them, right?” Trump said, speaking about the repeal effort that went down in July 2017. “Fortunately, they’re gone now. They’ve gone on to greener pastures. Or perhaps far less green pastures, but they’re gone… I’m very happy they’re gone.”

Trump’s hatred of McCain is no secret.

He’s repeatedly attacked McCain, in both life and death, suggesting the late Arizona Senator wasn’t a war hero because he was “captured” and then tortured for years while serving in Vietnam.

He’s also continuously blamed McCain for thwarting Republicans’ attempts to repeal the ACA — an effort that likely lost the House for Republicans in 2018 as the public despised the GOP health care repeal attempt and punished them for it at the ballot box.

But this speech at the “Faith and Freedom” conferene is the farthest he’s gone to disparage McCain, who died in August 2018 of brain cancer.

The incident proves that as bad as you think Trump’s behavior is, it can always, always get worse.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Warning, McCain Sighted! A Trigger Warning For Snowflake Trump

That was a pretty stunning story about the White House asking some Navy officials to move the warship USS John McCain “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan. The obvious fear was that sharing any stage with the war hero would unhinge the president. McCain died last August from brain cancer.

This is pretty wild stuff.

Higher-ups in the Navy reversed earlier efforts to cover the ship’s name with a tarp. Trump denies he knew about the request, as does acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

Believe them, or don’t. What cannot be denied is that someone in the White House sent email to the 7th Fleet urging that McCain’s name be kept out of Trump’s line of vision. Please confirm that the request “will be satisfied,” the White House Military official wrote in a follow-up message to the Navy.

Also, sailors wearing the USS John McCain’s insignia were not allowed to board the amphibious assault ship Wasp, where Trump was giving his Memorial Day address. Sailors from other ships were invited aboard.

What we have here is a trigger warning at the presidential level. A trigger warning cautions that a work to be presented contains writing, images and/or concepts that some people might find distressing. Popular on some college campuses, trigger warnings have been subject to much-deserved ridicule.

Recall the fuss made during the last presidential campaign over the appearance of the words “Trump 2016” chalked on steps at Emory University. Students demonstrated with at least one insisting that the scribbling made him fear for his life. Others regarded this display of sensitivity as ludicrous.

Students demanding trigger warnings are often called “snowflakes.” Snowflakes are people so easily offended they feel a need for “safe spaces” away from realities of a harsh world. Snowflakedom is a mark of immaturity.

“Basically, we now have a capital city that is trying to child-proof the presidency, right?” historian Jon Meacham said. “You want to take everything away, all the sharp objects.” Airbrush things out that might upset the “dear leader.”

So what about John McCain triggers Trump? Many have noted that the senator from Arizona is a true American hero who, having spent over five gruesome years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, sacrificed greatly for his county — and Trump is not.

After running out of student deferments, Trump evaded conscription by claiming incapacitation due to bone spurs on his foot. It turned out he probably didn’t even have bone spurs. (His doctor reportedly lied about them as a favor to Trump’s father.)

It must have been hard for a fragile personality like Trump to watch the national outpouring of grief for McCain, who also embodied what now looks like a golden age of nonpartisan patriotism. The similar tributes paid to the late George H.W. Bush no doubt added tinder to Trump’s pile of insecurities.

Trump has tried to cover his neurotic bashing of a deceased politician by insisting his true beef was tied to McCain’s vote that stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Actually, Trump should have thanked McCain. His prospects for reelection would be far dimmer had millions of Trump voters started losing their health coverage.

What makes this incident different from campus trigger warnings is that after being advised of the “dangers,” students can still choose to receive the material. Trump’s guardians wouldn’t even take that chance and worked to keep the trigger hidden altogether. Unless, of course, they were doing it all at Trump’s behest. The presidency doesn’t get weirder than this, or so we hope.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

IMAGE: The late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), speaking at a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham (not seen) in New York, July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Why Trump Can’t Stand Anything That Reminds Him Of John McCain

The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, “Big Bad John,” was christened in 1992 in honor of the U.S. Navy’s first father-son duo of four-star admirals, “Slew” and Jack. On July 12, 2018, their son and grandson respectively, retired Navy captain and U.S. Senator John S. McCain III was added to the official namesake of that Navy ship in a ceremony in Yokosuka, Japan. This American destroyer and its crew, as reported by The Wall Street Journal‘s Rebecca Ballhaus and Gordon Lubold, were told by Navy and Air Force brass — in response to a directive from the White House — that during President Donald Trump’s Memorial Day weekend visit to Japan, the USS John S. McCain needs to be kept “out of   sight.”
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), West Point graduate, a major in the 82nd Airborne Division, and McCain’s erstwhile colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the White House’s actions to avoid a presidential tantrum at the sight of the Navy destroyer honoring the American war hero and frequent Trump adversary “beyond petty” and “disgraceful.” Yielding to few in my admiration for senators McCain and Reed, I believe the actions of up-to-now anonymous White House staffers, feverishly working to avoid the wrath of their insecure boss, were entirely logical and even predictable.
Think about it: McCain’s biography is a public rebuke to all the values and the life of Donald J. Trump. In June of 1968, when Trump was graduating from the University of Pennsylvania — only to miraculously be found afflicted with bone spurs, which would prevent the athletic Trump from answering his country’s call to serve in the U.S. military — Navy pilot McCain, having sustained a broken leg, broken shoulders and cracked ribs at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, was in solitary confinement being tortured in a Hanoi prison.

We would learn some 32 years later what McCain’s fellow prisoners during his 5 1/2 years in captivity thought of him. During the 2000 New Hampshire presidential primary, I got to meet McCain’s Hanoi cellmate, Medal of Honor recipient and Air Force pilot George “Bud” Day. He, along with Marine aviator Orson Swindle, held prisoner for six years, and Navy pilot Everett Alvarez, one of the longest-held prisoners of war in U.S. history, came to the Granite State to knock on doors and to testify to voters about McCain’s courage and character. Can we name a single friend of Trump’s with whom his relationship is not commercially transactional? I am unable.

It was not just what McCain did but what he stood for that continues to make Trump so uncomfortable, even in the presence of his memory. Consider this McCain reflection on the warrior’s life I heard him give: “Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.” Then he added: “Something better can endure, and endure until our last moment on earth. And that is the honor we earn and the love we give if at a moment in our lives we sacrifice for something greater than self-interest.”

These values and words are heresy to the New York real estate mogul. Forced to confront his own inadequacies and his own selfishness, Donald Trump cannot stand to have people compare him to John McCain, alive or dead.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Danziger: Flying Crooked

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at

Hearing The President Speak

In Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, as a humble private, I was taught that at the very top of the chain of command stood the president of the United States, who was then Dwight D. Eisenhower. As supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, Gen. Eisenhower had made the fateful decision on June 6, 1944, to send 159,000 Allied troops onto the beaches of Normandy to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis’ iron grip.

In anticipation of personally accepting the responsibility for the very possible failure of that historic invasion, Eisenhower, in his own hand, wrote this speech he never had to give: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

A president takes responsibility.

The second commander in chief under whom I served was John F. Kennedy, who, as a Navy lieutenant, had his patrol torpedo boat (PT-109) sliced in two when rammed by a Japanese destroyer. The incident left 11 U.S. crewmen floundering in the Pacific. For his exhausting efforts to save his crew, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Much later, as a presidential candidate, Kennedy was asked by a youngster how he became a war hero, to which he responded: “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.” After the failed U.S.-organized Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, then-President Kennedy accepted that the buck stopped with him. “Victory has 100 fathers, and defeat is an orphan,” he said, adding, “I’m the responsible officer of the government.”

Acknowledging that he had been less than completely candid with Americans in the Iran-Contra scandal, President Ronald Reagan corrected the record: “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” The Gipper won public admiration for shouldering the blame.

Contrast this with the conduct and words of the incumbent commander in chief, who said of a Republican colleague who suffered two broken arms and one broken leg and then a beating by his “rescuers” after his U.S. Navy plane was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and endured 5 1/2 years of torture as a prisoner of war there before being freed: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

The polar opposite of Ike, JFK and Reagan, Donald Trump blames the wounded and now departed American hero John McCain. Let me tell you as a childhood survivor of both scarlet fever and rheumatic fever, which left me with a heart murmur, that the pre-induction military physical for those of us facing the draft call was not sophisticated medicine. Basically, if you could see lightning and hear thunder, you passed your U.S. military physical. Of course, there was the rare prep-school type who showed up in his camel hair jacket with a stack of affidavits from his allergist, his psychologist or even occasionally his foot doctor explaining why military life would not work out for Trip or Chip or Donnie. I prefer my presidents and leaders to take responsibility and not be the rare misfit who instead takes a powder.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

IMAGE: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States and former supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II.