Of Death and Politics

How far does a president have to go in acknowledging the death of a political luminary?  Does the deceased deserve the same level of condolence if he was a bona fide political enemy of the president versus an ally?  We know that when Republicans die, Democrats and their supporters in the Democrat-Media-Propaganda Complex often celebrate their demise.  They do not show any restraint in their postmortem comments because they feel justified in stating publicly that the world is now better off and no longer contaminated by a conservative politician who was pro-wall, anti-illegal immigration, pro-gun, or anti-abortion.  If the dearly departed was a religious Christian, he is openly mocked.  Republicans are generally regarded as such abominations to the left-wing agenda and societal advancement that their deaths are seen as celebrations not for the life they led, but for the lives in this country they can no longer soil. 

There is no denying that President Trump and Senator McCain were oil and vinegar, cobra and mongoose, with an unfiltered and palpable disdain for one another.  It doesn't matter who lobbed the initiating insult.  They equally exchanged nasty barbs and damaging criticisms. 

Trump had several choices: (1) say nothing about Senator McCain's passing, for which he would be endlessly bludgeoned by the press and punditry; (2) extol the virtues of the deceased in a manner clearly at odds with their relationship and invite endless bludgeoning from the press and punditry for being a hypocrite; or (3) pay polite and respectful condolences to the family, honor his death holding the flag at half-mast, and leave the praise-filled eulogies to those who could do so sincerely...and be bludgeoned in the punditry and press because he didn't deliver enough praise or keep the flag at half-mast long enough.  In case you don't know it, the Democrat-Media-Propaganda Complex is hysterical about Trump's response to John McCain's death. 

The offending Trump tweet that has been the source of so much ire on the part of the punditry and press reads as follows: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain.  Our hearts and prayers are with you!"  The flag at his Virginia golf course was lowered to half-mast in Senator McCain's honor, as was the flag at the White House.  Apparently, the White House flag was raised back to full mast after 48 hours.

In defense of President Trump, I will say this: maybe he wanted to honor the man but also not be a hypocrite about their relationship.  In fact, McCain had been planning his funeral while battling brain cancer and specifically requested that Presidents Obama and Bush speak but did not request the same of President Trump.  That is certainly the right of McCain and his family, and we should respect those express wishes. 

It looks as if the president has done just that.  He has yet to come out and tweeted: Not asked by McCain family to speak at funeral.  Sad.  Nasty people.  Wouldn't have anything nice to say about him anyway.  He didn't ignore the death of Senator McCain, but instead sent his condolences to the family with the proper meter and tone.  Had he uncharacteristically praised McCain, that would have been more evidence that he was a hypocrite, flip-flopper, and liar.  The press-pundit-pol response would have been swift and jarring. 

Maybe the press is just perturbed that President Trump actually handled himself quite presidentially this time, showing a modicum of respect due the family while being true to the nature of their relationship. 

Also, I've noticed that media tributes to some people who pass away have gotten longer and more drawn out than in the past.  These selected deaths dominate the news cycle as if they were a cataclysmic natural disaster. The press and punditry perseverate on the deaths of some luminaries for days on end, the tributes are round-the-clock, and everyone who has a story to tell must be aired.  I find myself, after the initial announcement – whether it is John McCain or Charles Krauthammer – binge watching anything I can find to avoid the constant and repetitive news coverage.

Death is part of life.  Some people live more consequential lives than others, it's true.  And those deaths and the lives led will be highlighted in the news cycle in ways most of us – no matter how consequential our lives might be to our families and friends – will never receive.  Ours will be a one-paragraph obituary in a local newspaper; there will be a funeral or memorial; friends and families will mourn, sit shiva, or attend a wake; and then life goes on. 

Now, some will argue that John McCain deserves more coverage than other politicians, war heroes, ex-presidential candidates...because he was all three, because his life was so consequential.  But I wonder if that is what is really going on here.  Let's see what happens to Senator Bob Dole or President George H.W. Bush when they pass away.  Maybe I'm wrong, and they'll be celebrated to the same extent as John McCain, and that is just how the 24-hour news cycle covers the deaths of political luminaries and celebrities.

But with all due respect, I cannot help but wonder if part of this outpouring – especially from the left-wingers and the Democrat-Media-Propaganda Complex – is because McCain not only sided with the Democrats on issues like immigration and outwardly despised Trump, but gave Trump the finger on repealing Obamacare.  Many believe that his thumbs-down vote was personal and emblematic of their mutual disdain – I'm not going to do something you want so badly and need me to be the deciding vote on, even if I agree with it in principle and despite the fact I got re-elected to vote in favor of repeal.  I'm going to stick it to you because of the nasty things you've said about me.  Maybe then you will learn your lesson.  If you want me to cooperate, you have to be nice.

I can understand that.  Trump hit McCain in his pithy core with his comments about his heroism and capture.  That was too close for McCain to just brush off.  McCain clearly wanted to make one last dig at Trump before he left this Earth, and he did, by asking non-sitting presidents to eulogize him.  That trumped anything Trump could say or do, and I think our president knows this.  So far, he has given this shot to McCain.  And so it should remain.

I hope Trump can continue to ignore the current wave of criticism and just leave his condolences where they are and not feel compelled to say anything further. 

We turn the other cheek when someone dies.  We don't speak ill of the dead.  We don't speak of their failures, and we don't reference their negative attributes or personality flaws.  (Unless you are a liberal commenting on the death of a conservative you despise.)  If anything, we candy-coat their lives.  We all have had people in our lives die whom we really didn't like, love, or respect, but whose funerals we had to attend or to whose families we had to send our condolences.

We don't stand up and correct the record at a funeral.  We hold back our true feelings when we express our sympathies.  We don't say, We are so sorry to hear about the death of Bob.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family even though he owes me money, said horrible things to me about my children, was a liar and a louse."  No, we let it go.  Or we don't attend the funeral or bother to send a card.

I am certain that Trump did not expect to be invited either to attend or speak at the funeral, and, indeed, he was not.  I also conjecture that had he been asked to attend or speak, he would have done so out of respect and would have comported himself appropriately.  Further, I do not think the president was morally obligated to say anything about John McCain's death, however, sending out a respectful tweet and lowering the White House flag to half-mast was the right thing to do.  It was downright presidential.  And he should just leave it at that, knowing that the Democrat-Media Propaganda-Complex will never let it go.

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