A dying Senator John McCain has made it known through friends that he does not want Donald Trump to attend his funeral and would prefer that Vice President Mike Pence attend instead.
McCain has been battling brain cancer for the last year and recent reports indicate he doesn’t have long to live.
The senator, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said in an audio excerpt this week of his forthcoming memoir, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” according to a clip aired by NPR.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
Trump did not attend the recent funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas, in order “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush Family and friends attending the service,” the White House said last month. First lady Melania Trump attended the service instead, along with former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush plan to be eulogists at McCain’s funeral service, which is to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the source close to McCain said.
McCain’s wish for Trump to skip his funeral, first reported Saturday by The New York Times, comes as the two men have had a turbulent relationship, particularly since the 2016 presidential primary when Trump said McCain was considered a war hero only “because he was captured” during the Vietnam War and that Trump preferred military figures who avoided being taken prisoner by the enemy.
Last summer, Trump blasted McCain for his “no” vote that helped doom a key Obamacare repeal bill in the Senate.
Trump was probably not going to attend the funeral anyway so the request by McCain to exclude the president of the United States was a preemptive move to snub Trump before the president could snub him.
If Trump sends someone like the secretary of the Labor Department to represent him, don’t be surprised.
Meanwhile, the apparent imminent passing of John McCain is cause for serious reflection on the times we live in. McCain lived — for better or worse — a hugely consequential life. He was a primary mover behind the defense buildup in the 1980s, becoming President Reagan’s key ally in Congress. He spoke strongly and elegantly about America’s place in the world and our historic role of promoting freedom.
That he fell out of favor with the right in recent years was inevitable. McCain is an officer and a gentleman and saw governance as a cooperative effort. In this hyper-partisan, rough-hewn age, his civility and willingness to compromise with Democrats made him a marked man on the right and he became public enemy number one when he opposed Trump.
I prefer to remember the 1980s version of McCain, who stood up for American interests, sought to give Reagan the kind of military that could confront the Soviets, and spoke so elegantly about America’s calling to be a world leader.
I don’t think he would have been a good president. He wasn’t enough of a partisan warrior to get much done. But as a leader, few could match him.