Staff Columnist

Trump pettiness disrupts mourning

A makeshift memorial stands outside the offices of late U.S. Sen. John McCain in Phoenix, Arizona on August 28, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
A makeshift memorial stands outside the offices of late U.S. Sen. John McCain in Phoenix, Arizona on August 28, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
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In his defense, no one — not even The Man himself — has ever claimed Donald Trump is tethered to grace.

Of course, the lack of such a pronouncement provides no defense for the undefensible disrespect shown by a Republican president for the former standard-bearer of the GOP, long-standing and respected member of Congress, and decorated military veteran. (Of these three attributes, Trump will ever achieve only one.)

“I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator (John) McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his interment,” read a blunt statement sent by the national commander of the American Legion to the White House.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS and many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, took issue with President Donald Trump’s refusal to set aside personal grievances with McCain long enough to honor the senator’s service to the nation.

For more than 48 hours following McCain’s death, save a tweet expressing condolences to the family, the current U.S. president offered no words to commemorate the passing of the Arizona Republican and Navy pilot who was held for more than five years as a prisoner of war. When asked by reporters, Trump purposefully ignored questions, remaining silent. Our president, when directly asked, couldn’t bring himself to reverse a charge he made during the course of his presidential campaign and say McCain was a hero.

It was Monday afternoon before Trump issued a proclamation and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of McCain’s interment. Unlike at other federal facilities, the White House flag was raised to full-staff after the minimum two-day requirement that follows the death of a member of Congress.

If Trump required a recent example of how to honor a statesman and veteran, he only had to look to Iowa. Elected officials and state leaders, regardless of political party, showed respect and dignity last week as they bid farewell to former U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell.

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Yet, no example should have been required. Declaring a period of mourning is a traditional acknowledgment of respect for the deceased, the family of the deceased and a sorrowful nation that the White House fully understands. In April, Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff until former first lady Barbara Bush’s burial. Two months earlier, a White House proclamation was issued for religious leader Billy Graham.

In fact, since President Trump apparently found it within himself to honor the memory of Graham, perhaps he also can find it within himself to take a small bit of wisdom from the pastor. In his 2012 book, “Nearing Home,” Graham ponders the process of aging, looking to scripture and religious teachings for guidance. He wrote, “When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice.”

Unlike some other associations the nation sadly has endured, there never is shame in choosing or tethering to grace.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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