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Report: Trump defends response to McCain death

President Donald Trump defended his response to the death of Sen. John McCain in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Posted: Sep 1, 2018 8:29 AM
Updated: Sep 1, 2018 8:42 AM

President Donald Trump is in no mood to take lectures from John McCain and the weeklong national civics lesson the Arizona senator sketched with his own funeral rites.

On a day of poignant juxtaposition, McCain's flag draped coffin left his beloved home soil of Arizona for the last time Thursday after his friends eulogized a life embroidered with honor, self-sacrifice, American exceptionalism and the idea of serving a cause greater than oneself.

Leaving Washington to mourners, Trump flew west and unspooled the kind of brazen campaign trail performance -- tearing at the nation's political and cultural divides and bashing institutions such as the Justice Department -- that McCain planned his final goodbye to repudiate.

The former combat pilot's last flight ended in the gathering dusk of Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, as McCain was borne back to the capital, where he was once a ubiquitous figure, for the first time since December. Though McCain never became president, the military ceremony and sense of solemnity had the historic sense of a state occasion.

Less than an hour later, Trump, soaking in the adulation of a wildly cheering crowd, strolled on stage in Indiana to the strains of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and opened his speech with a boast about his 2016 presidential win in the state and his economic record.

"Where the hell did she come from?" Trump asked, as his supporters booed a lone protester escorted from the arena, before bashing "dishonest, terrible" people in the media and lambasting the "old and corrupt ruling class," of which America could be "ashamed."

Chants of "lock her up, lock her up," echoed through the arena, aimed at Hillary Clinton.

The split screen moment of Trump, the showman in his element on stage, and Washington grandees gathering to mourn McCain, exemplified competing strains between traditional establishment politics and grassroots insurgencies at radical wings of each party that may define the just-stirring 2020 presidential campaign.

With that in mind, it seems fitting that in the next stage of McCain's farewell, his coffin will rest Friday in the Capitol Rotunda on the catafalque that first bore the remains of Abraham Lincoln, the President who warned his nation that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

A feud that will not die

Thursday's political theater personified the running feud that has raged between McCain and Trump even after the Arizona statesman's death from brain cancer on Saturday.

On the one side is politics McCain-style, in which a sometimes irascible temperament, relish for battle and dedication to conservatism did not preclude the late senator carving friendships across the aisle or seeking compromise on some of the most divisive issues.

By meticulously planning his funeral arrangements, including addresses by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- but not Trump -- McCain spelled out a clear message that he believed the current administration had taken an un-American turn.

On the other hand is the raucous rejection of traditional Washington values exemplified by Trump, whose insurgent fury, fondness for conspiracy theories and contempt for convention inspired Americans who felt rejected by the very political elites now lauding McCain.

Nearly two years since Trump's shock 2016 election win, McCain's brand of politics may be sorely missed by those who idealize it. But the President has the power, a fact that raises questions whether the nostalgia for McCain is also a valediction for a fading mode of politics.

Trump did not mention McCain at his rally. But earlier, he told Bloomberg News that he didn't think he had done anything wrong in his grudging response to his foe's death.

"We had our disagreements and they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assume he believed in," Trump said.

The values that McCain revered were encapsulated in a moving eulogy by his friend and Senate sparring partner, former Vice President Joe Biden at a memorial service in Phoenix.

"It was always about basic values with John: Fairness, honesty, dignity, respect; giving hate no safe harbor; leaving no one behind; and understanding that as Americans, we're part of something much bigger than ourselves," Biden said.

A volatile week, even by Trump's standards

Most politicians are ego driven, hungry for the next headline and sometimes attack the motives of their rivals, a practice Biden decried in his speech. But most take pains to hide such traits, and a few, such as McCain, honestly reflect on their own transgressions in a way that forges bonds with the public.

But Trump makes no attempt to disguise such behavior. His quintessential political insight was to put it at the core of his campaign trail persona -- and it helped him capture the Republican Party and the presidency. His unapologetic style is one reason he refused to temper his behavior in the week of McCain's passing -- and further alienated the more conventional politicians who loved the Arizona senator.

Trump's most fervent supporters would probably not recognize qualities in the President that Biden saw in McCain. But that is exactly what made him so popular with a political base ready to embrace a scorched earth candidate.

The proof has been everywhere in a week that has been volatile even by Trump's standards and suggests the President has little time for the notion that politics is about a cause greater than the individual. Often as he boasts about ratings and his poll numbers and his 2016 election triumph, it seems that for Trump, it's all about him.

Over the last week, Trump reacted to comparisons between him and McCain by offering lukewarm tributes and only belatedly lowering the flag over the White House to half-staff.

His determination to continue to wage a quarrel with a dead man exemplified his intense sensitivity to slights and prompted critics to conclude that he fails to put the wider duties of the office of the presidency above his personal image and preoccupations.

In the same vein, Trump's relentless humiliation of Jeff Sessions is born out of an often expressed resentment that the attorney general put his loyalty to the law before his personal fealty to the President by recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump also obsessed about his press coverage and complained that Google was censoring favorable stories about him. He issued a defensive statement to rebut criticism of his personal handling of the North Korea nuclear crisis. He insisted his team had done a "fantastic job" when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, despite new figures showing that nearly 3,000 people died in last year's disaster.

Almost every day Trump slammed the "rigged Russia witch hunt," along with the FBI and the Justice Department, pillars of the political system that McCain saw as essential parts of the foundation of US democracy.

It reflected a presidency that is becoming less and less conventional the longer it goes and often seems to revolve almost exclusively around the whims and outbursts of Trump himself. There's no chance that the focus on McCain and the politics and civic sensibilities he prized will change minds in the GOP base. Whether it will rouse other sectors of the electorate will begin to be answered in the midterm elections in November.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
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