While President Trump was surrounded by hundreds of service-members for the signing of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, he failed to mention one name: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
In fact, none of the speakers at Fort Drum on Monday mentioned McCain, despite the bill being named after the long-time senator currently battling brain cancer.
Trump simply referred to the bill as the “National Defense Authorization Act,” omitting McCain’s name from the bill altogether. However, he did find time during his speech to talk up Space Force, emphasize low employment rates for African Americans, and mention how he believes the media does not talk about positive economic data.
“I’m so proud of myself, I didn’t call them the ‘fake news media,’” he boasted to the military crowd.
Sen. McCain served in the Vietnam War and was a prisoner of war for more than five years, undergoing torture and beatings from his North Vietnamese captors. While the White House did write out the full name of the bill in its fact sheets, the president’s omission of McCain seemed rather conspicuous.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted how the omission was “disgraceful,” writing: “Nothing will erase for an instant the legacy John McCain has written and is still writing every day.”
“For those asking did I expect Trump to be an asshole today. No more than I expected it to be Monday.” tweeted Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime aide.
CNN host Jake Tapper took the time on his show to point out how Trump thanked a “laundry list of people” during his speech for the NDAA, but not the bill’s namesake. “Since President Trump would not do it, let us here on The Lead congratulate Senator John McCain and his family and thank him for his service to the country,” Tapper said.
Deep-seated animosity between Trump and McCain extends as far back as the summer of 2015, when then-candidate Trump said the Arizona senator was “not a war hero… because he was captured.”
In June, Trump aide Kelly Sadler reportedly mocked that McCain’s vote on then-CIA nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter because "he's dying anyway." She left the White House weeks later.
Despite the president omitting the senator’s name, McCain and his family considered the naming of the defense spending bill an honor.
“I’m so proud of [McCain] and his work on NDAA. Incredibly humbled at the naming of this after my husband,” his wife, Cindy McCain, tweeted.
While the statement posted on his website factually notes how Trump signed the bill, McCain’s own remarks avoided mentioning the president.
“I'm proud the NDAA is now law & humbled Congress chose to designate it in my name,” McCain wrote on Twitter. “As Chairman of the Armed Services [Committee], I've found high purpose in service of a cause greater than self—the cause of our troops who defend America & all that she stands for.”