Mike Pence's Comments About John McCain Put Him At Odds With Trump's Actions
It looks like America's vice president's comments for the late Arizona Sen. John McCain may not reflect Donald Trump's. Mike Pence, as he spoke at the American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis on Thursday, remembered the late Arizona Republican figure in glowing terms. "A particular veteran that I know is on the hearts and minds of people all across America as we gather here," the vice president said.
Noting McCain's history as a prisoner of war during the American occupation of Vietnam, Pence said that the late Republican did not give into local authorities during his time in the country. He had become, per Pence, "one of the most unwavering advocates of our armed forces to ever serve." This sentiment seemed at odds with Trump, who insulted McCain in 2015 by saying he liked "people who weren't captured."
"He came from a long line of service in uniform," Pence said on Thursday. "He served in the Vietnam War. He spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war, and he did not yield."
The vice president's praise for McCain is particularly noteworthy as the audience he spoke in front of on Thursday was one of the groups most critical of Trump's attitude toward the late McCain. The American Legion, a nonprofit organization that honors American war veterans throughout the country, recently criticized Trump for not flying flags at half-staff after McCain's death. (Trump also initially refused to issue a White House statement praising McCain, according to The Washington Post.)
The day after McCain died on Aug. 25, the White House lowered its flags at half-staff. They were raised once again on Aug. 27, eliciting criticism and incredulity from observers. In a letter to the president on Aug. 27, the American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan wrote, "The American Legion urges the White House to follow long-established protocol following the death of prominent government officials."
In response to the criticism leveled by various groups, Trump released a statement, noting a change in plans. "Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Sen. John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment," Trump said. "I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday."
Pence's speech in front of the American Legion comes three days after reporters said that Trump sat when asked about McCain's death. Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery tweeted a description, shared below, of the incident, saying that Trump did not respond to questions for thoughts on the senator or his legacy.
It's difficult to say whether Pence's praise for McCain will help Trump's image in front of unhappy veterans. Perhaps to allay this frustration, Pence promised the crowd of veterans in Minneapolis, "I can assure you, America will always remember and honor the lifetime of service of United States Sen. John McCain."
"By honoring him," Pence added, "we also honor all of you."