Prior to his Saturday death from brain cancer, Senator John McCain appears to have taken a parting shot at President Trump in a farewell message read to the public on Monday by Rick Davis, a close friend of McCain's who managed his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns.
While not mentioning Trump by name, it was clear "whom some of the remarks were aimed at," reports NBC News.
Speaking of country's best qualities, McCain wrote that "we weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all corners of the globe."
"We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been," Davis, holding back tears, said as he read McCain's message in Phoenix.
"Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here," McCain wrote. "Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history." -NBC News
"We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement," McCain added in the statement.
"If only we remember that, and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do," Davis continued during an emotional reading of the statement.
BREAKING: A "final message" from the late John McCain is read by an aide. pic.twitter.com/RLZRGfOAQ4— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 27, 2018
On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that President Trump rejected issuing a statement that "praised the heroism and life of Sen. John McCain", instead telling White House aides he preferred to issue a tweet before posting one Saturday night that did not include any praise for the late Arizona Republican.
According to the report, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other White House aides advocated for an official statement that gave the decorated Vietnam War POW plaudits for his military and Senate service and called him a "hero." A statement to that purpose had been drafted before McCain died Saturday, and Sanders and others edited a final version this weekend that was ready for the president.
However, Trump told aides he wanted to post a brief tweet instead, and the statement praising McCain’s life was not released: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!" Trump posted Saturday evening shortly after McCain’s death was announced.
My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2018
What's more, after spending much of the weekend lowered to half-staff, the White House flag was raised to full staff on Monday. .
Flag back at full staff atop WH. Pres Trump did not issue proclamation on the death of @SenJohnMcCain, which usually calls for flags to remain at half-staff through the day of interment, which is Sunday at the @NavalAcademy. pic.twitter.com/NGasNPT0VB— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 27, 2018
Several hours later, the flag was lowered again to half staff.
The flag at the White House, now at half-staff again. pic.twitter.com/K4I6Cwk3kj— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) August 27, 2018
Needless to say, Trump's break with precedent from previous presidents "who have typically released effusive official statements for noteworthy Americans upon their death" confirmed that the bitter relationship between the two men, Trump’s continued anger toward McCain and the substantive and stylistic differences between them, lasted until the end.
Meanwhile, as the tributes poured in, Trump - who in 2015 said McCain was “not a war hero” - spent much of Sunday at his golf course in Virginia and did not utter a word publicly. He returned to the White House in the afternoon, where the flags were lowered to half-staff for the deceased senator.
Then came the criticism:
“It’s atrocious,” Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team and a longtime Republican strategist, said of Trump’s reaction to McCain’s death. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”
Other chimed in:
Mark Hertling, a former senior military commander who lauded McCain on Twitter for visiting Mosul during heavy fighting in Afghanistan, said he was not surprised by Trump’s reaction to McCain’s death. Nineteen months into his presidency, Trump has yet to visit any war zones where American troops are fighting.
“It was very shallow,” Hertling said of Trump’s response.
Trump, however, remained unmoved, and as the WaPo notes, Trump's Twitter feed was silent Sunday other than reprising screeds against the investigation into Russian election interference and boasting about a buoyant economy.