The news of the day was dominated by the decision by the White House not to lower its flag to half-staff in honor of John McCain, a long-serving senator, former presidential nominee, war hero, and figure of broad respect among members of both parties. Republican senator James Inhofe explains that it takes two to have a tiff like this, even if only one of the parties to the dispute is currently alive.
McCain is “partially to blame,” said Inhofe, because he “disagreed with the president in certain areas and wasn’t too courteous about it.”
A few points stand out here. First, by suggesting that Trump ordered the raising of the flag as retaliation against his deceased adversary, Inhofe is assuming a fact that news reporters have only speculated. The White House hasn’t admitted, and no reporter has confirmed, that Trump actually made this decision. Inhofe is treating it as a fact.
Second, Inhofe hilariously defines McCain’s sin as a lack of courtesy. This coming in defense of Donald Trump.
Third, he is confirming that the White House believes that disagreement with Trump is legitimate grounds for the government to dishonor a public servant. He is accepting the Trumpian notion that loyalty to Trump is the only form of morality, and that new standards of conduct exist other than serving Trump’s interests.
The “issue” here is one of pure symbolism. But to call it symbolic is not to deny it has real meaning or importance. Trump is flaunting his control over the party and his ability to define the government as a vessel for his own whims — powers that have very concrete applications. There is no more apt measure of the Republican Party’s capitulation to Trump than the spectacle of a Republican senator accepting the president’s right to dishonor his former colleague.