STERLING, VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 1, 2018) (RESTRICTED POOL) – While several former presidents, members of the cabinet and White House staff, and many current and former U.S. political leaders attended a memorial service for the late Senator John McCain, U.S. President Donald Trump spent Saturday (September 1) tweeting on other subjects and went to one of his private golf clubs in Virginia.
The flag atop the White House flew at half staff in honor of McCain as Trump walked out and got into a vehicle bound for Trump National Golf Club in a suburb outside Washington, D.C.
Many other major U.S. political leaders of the last quarter century attended the memorial service, held at the Washington National Cathedral, and while Trump himself was absent, his presence was felt through the content of the tributes.
McCain asked former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush to deliver eulogies while the family made clear that Trump was not welcome.
Bush and Obama, once rivals of the late Senator John McCain, praised him in their tributes and joined McCain’s daughter in making subtle and not-so-subtle rebukes of President Donald Trump.
Without naming Trump, Meghan McCain condemned the president in remarks that at times drew applause and came after she said her dad told her to “show them how tough you are” with her eulogy.
“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, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served,” she said, speaking forcefully and, at times, through tears.
Taking aim at Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” she said McCain’s America was always great.
For years Trump feuded publicly with McCain and mocked his military service, continuing to knock him even after he grew ill. The former Republican senator from Arizona died on Aug. 25 from brain cancer, days shy of his 82nd birthday.
John McCain was a leading voice for revamping the country’s immigration, campaign finance and environmental laws. But it was his military service, punctuated by years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, that molded his political life.
Rising to the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy, he was shot down over Hanoi while on a bombing mission in 1967. Held as a prisoner until 1973, he was tortured by his North Vietnamese captors in a jail that Americans dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton.”
As a presidential candidate, Trump mocked McCain for getting captured in Vietnam. Trump himself received five deferments that got him out of serving in the military.
On Sunday McCain will be buried during a private service in Annapolis, Maryland, at the U.S. Naval Academy. McCain was a member of the Academy’s Class of 1958.