The imbroglio concerning the USS John McCain started when a Wall Street Journal story reported that the “White House” had ordered the Navy to “hide” the USS John McCain, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer currently at the American naval base at Yokosuka, Japan. The ship has been undergoing extensive repairs after a catastrophic collision with a merchant ship took the lives of ten of her sailors.
The presumption had been that the order had been given by President Trump, whose antipathy toward the late senator and Vietnam war hero is well known. The story suggested that the ship could not be moved because she was under repairs, so the name USS John McCain was concealed by a tarp and then a barge to keep it from Trump’s sight as he addressed sailors and Marines on board the assault ship USS Wasp.
The same report suggested that the McCain’s crew was allowed shore leave so that the president would not be affronted by the sight of the name of their ship on their head covers.
As evidence, the Wall Street Journal noted that it was in the possession of an email referencing the order from the White House.
However, the story began to fall apart when the Navy denied that it had made efforts to conceal the USS John McCain. The tarp and barge in question were part of the repair operation that is ongoing and had nothing to do with a White House order.
Thus, the destroyer, that was named incidentally after McCain’s father and grandfather, both Navy admirals, was in full view of President Trump when he addressed the sailors and Marines on board the Wasp.
The holes in the story did not stop a Twitter war from breaking out that featured Trump enemies decrying the president’s “pettiness” and Trump supporters retorting “Fake News!” Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter, had a meltdown.
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my Dad’s incredible life. There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable.”
Bill Kristol, a fervent never-Trumper, was also incensed. He tweeted, “A disgrace. Shanahan should be hauled up pronto to explain this by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.” Shanahan is the current acting Secretary of Defense and has denied any knowledge of the plan to conceal the McCain.
In the meantime, President Trump denied any knowledge of the order. “I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!”
The president’s denial did not impress the never-Trumper’s on Twitter. Bill Kristol snarked:
“Trump: ‘I would never do anything like that. But someone did that, and they were well-meaning.’ To Trump, ‘well-meaning’ means ‘They meant to help me.’ To the narcissist, there’s no objective standard of right or wrong, or good or bad. The only standard is, good or bad for me.”
President Trump has not been very friendly to the late Senator McCain or his family ever since, during the 2016 campaign, he said of the man, “I like heroes who weren’t captured.”
The statement was a shocking example of the president at his worst. McCain had been shot down over North Vietnam and endured five and a half years of torture.
However, McCain exacted a measure of revenge when he voted against a repeal and replace Obamacare measure in the Senate, thus killing the bill. His excuse at the time was that he didn’t think the bill had gone far enough.
The real reason was that as he was dying of brain cancer, McCain took a parting shot at Trump. The president and the senator were two alpha males who detested one another.
Hence, the idea that the president is petty and vindictive enough to desire that he not see a navy ship with McCain’s name on it was at least plausible.
The idea certainly informed whichever staffer who sent the email to the Navy ordering the thing done.
The Navy properly ignored the order and Trump, blissfully unaware of what happened, delivered his speech on board the Wasp to great acclaim.
Now he has another slight from “fake news” to feel resentful about.