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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.
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