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The most damaging contrast made at McCain’s funeral

Does Trump’s unshakably loyal, hyper-patriotic base not know about his avoidance of the draft during the Vietnam War? Do they not care?

Meghan McCain speaking at the memorial service
Meghan McCain speaking at the memorial service of Senator John McCain at National Cathedral in Washington on Saturday.
REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Because of the long weekend, I’m late weighing in on the interesting, lovely and feisty funeral service for Sen. John McCain. But I’ll weigh in anyway, in the faint hope that my take is a little different from the most common one.

Basically, I appreciated almost everything that was said during the long ceremony and I wish the grieving McCains the best. I disagreed with  McCain on many issues, mostly across the hawk/dove divide. But he stood out for his candor and relative intellectual honesty, and for his willingness to buck his party when his principles required it, and to work with Democrats to get things done, like the famed McCain Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which was a heroic effort at reducing the corrupting power of money in politics.

But back to the memorial service. The heartfelt sentiments expressed, including the various not-even-thinly-veiled criticisms of Donald Trump, while elegant, were completely unsurprising.

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We are all supposed to be agog at the fact that McCain’s daughter Meghan took a few shots at President Trump. Most of the commentary I heard, at least in the immediate aftermath, was about this passage from her remarks:

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

Meghan McCain actually found at least three ways to slam the current White House incumbent during her remarks. (Here’s another one: “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.” Here’s a column that excerpts the highlights from her remarks.)

The contrast between McCain’s military record and heroism as a POW (most specifically because he refused to accept an early release based on his admiral father’s high rank, and suffered brutal beatings that resulted in permanent injuries) and Trump’s success at avoiding military service made for a powerful statement, unflattering to Trump.

(Trump, who was not asked to attend and who spent the day golfing, was assumed to be replying when he brilliantly tweeted “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” Is there no limit to his subtle brilliance?)

But, of course, this damning contrast was well known before Saturday. The cathedral was crowded with Republican officeholders, who came to honor McCain but most of whom, in their day jobs, have chosen, for the most blatantly obvious reasons of political survival, to speak no ill of the current occupant of the Oval Office, even though they well understand his flaws and his unfitness for the job he holds.

The first question is how they felt about their own lack of courage in their unwillingness to honestly discuss the character of their current leader.

The second question is how Trump’s unshakably loyal, hyper-patriotic base understands the contrast between their cult’s leader and the departed senator. Do they not know about Trump’s avoidance of the draft during the Vietnam War? Do they not care? Nothing that happened over the holiday weekend shed much light on that question.

And that’s the question that haunts me.