By Yinka Odumakin
THE glorious funeral service of Arizona Senator,John McCain, on Saturday and the loud defiance of Trump it turned out to be without any consequence is a teachable moment for a crude polity like Nigeria where decorum and decency in conduct of public affairs are becoming forlorn.
McCain, a major figure in Trump’s own party had made a death wish that he didn’t want POTUS at his funeral,a clear continuation of a longstanding sour relationship between the duo . It began notably early in the presidential campaign cycle, when McCain said Trump had “fired up the crazies” in his home state of Arizona, and Trump said he didn’t consider McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent five and a half years in Vietnam as a prisoner of war, where he was tortured, a war hero.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Trump’s attacks on McCain during the presidential campaign were so many. He said that he thinks “John McCain’s done very little for the veterans. I’m very disappointed in John McCain,” and that the veteran senator is “yet another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job.” McCain withdrew his endorsement of Trump after the Access Hollywood tape, on which Trump can be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women, was leaked.
After McCain was the deciding “no” vote tanking the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, Trump said that the Arizona Republican had done it out of spite — not because of policy. When a White House aide crassly remarked that she didn’t care about McCain’s opposition to Trump’s CIA director nomination because he was “dying anyways,” Trump reportedly told advisers he didn’t care if the aide apologised. When Trump signed the defense bill named after McCain this month, he didn’t mention the Arizona senator in his remarks about the policy.
McCain repeatedly made clear digs at Trump both during the campaign and after Trump was elected, mocking him for avoiding the Vietnam War draft and calling his movement “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
And in one sense, McCain had the last word: The sitting Republican president was not at the funeral of one of the most prominent Republican politicians — an absence that clearly shows Trump’s fraught position in his own party. Donald Trump’s name was never mentioned. The funeral service for John Sidney McCain III, at the Washington National Cathedral was all about a rebuke to the pointedly uninvited current President of the United States, which was exactly how McCain had wanted it.
There were great tributes to Senator McCain’s bravery and courage and public service, stark reminders of the torture he endured as a prisoner of war, and of the policies he fought for (and against) in his many decades as a Republican politician from Arizona. But McCain knew that would not be the headline from the grand service, whose many details he personally oversaw. This was to be no mere laying to rest of a Washington wise man, nor just another funeral of an elder statesman whose passing would be marked by flowery words about the end of an era. It was a meeting of the Resistance, under vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows.
This was made clear a few minutes into the two-and-a-half-hour service, when McCain’s daughter Meghan, weeping at times, called it a funeral for nothing less than “the passing of American greatness” that her father represented, and not the “cheap rhetoric” that now passes for it. Later, her voice breaking, she said, “The America of John McCain does not need to be made great again, because it is already great.” Her eulogy was then interrupted by applause.
She hadn’t uttered the name of the “President Non Grata,” as the Washington Post recently referred to Trump, nor did she need to. Midway through her remarkable speech, a pool report from the White House was released. Trump, wearing a white “Make America Great Again” hat, and having tweeted his morning complement of bile, directed at Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, and his own Justice Department, had departed to play golf.
Before he died, McCain had personally enlisted Trump’s two Presidential predecessors to speak at the service, and when they came to the lectern both George W. Bush and Barack Obama fulfilled the role they had been assigned, offering tributes to the man they had each beaten in an election, as well as odes to the American political system they all loved. In any other context, maybe it would not seem to be a stinging criticism to hear Obama praise the “rule of law.” But Trump is the inescapable context of these times in Washington. “Perhaps above all,” Bush said, “John detested the abuse of power.” When Bush talked about McCain’s dedication to America’s leadership in the world and his hatred of tyrants, how many of those listening thought of the current President’s praise for many of those same dictators whom McCain had been so proud to oppose? Of course, they thought of it. That was the point.
Obama seemed to describe both Trump and the way in which he has chosen to lead the country. “So much of our politics can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama said. “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.” Democratic heads and Republican heads nodded.
This was America where Obama and Bush and Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney could all sit in the same pew, in the same church, and sing the same words to the patriotic hymns that made them all teary-eyed at the same time. When the two Presidents were done speaking, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” blared out. This time, once again, the battle is within America. The country’s leadership, the flawed, all too human men and women who have run the place, successfully or not, for the past few decades, were all in the same room, at least for a few hours on a Saturday morning. The President of the United States, however, was not.
A little after 9 a.m., President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, made an entrance in the packed Cathedral, embracing Republican senators, nodding earnestly, dressed in black like everyone else. Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, was there, too, along with John Kelly, the former Marine general whom Trump has enlisted as his White House chief of staff. All eyes were fixed on them.
As I watched the McCain funeral, I couldn’t stop wondering what it would have been like holding such defiant event against the Nigerian President and the consequences it would have attracted.
I wondered if the Nigerian President would have issued any statement on McCain’s death like Trump did when he said: ” In spite of our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honour, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” Trump said, adding that members of his administration, from Vice President Mike Pence to General John Kelly, would attend various memorial services for the senator.
I listened to Pa E.K Clark saying the other day that he read the Presidency’s birthday greetings to Mr. Olisa Agbakoba and about two other persons who celebrated around the same time with him but muteness was sent his way. The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai till date has not sent a word of condolence to the family of Bishop Danlami Bagobiri, the Bishop of Kafanchan who died months ago because he was critical of his administration. The Washington National Cathedral where the funeral took place would have come under lock and key by the DSS, particularly the Lawal Daura-controlled, under the guise that it received some security report that Saraki and some disgruntled forces were planning to use the funeral to effect a “breakdown of law and order .”
The National Leader of Miyetti Allah would not have been left out of striking against a funeral of a msg whose death wish was that the President should stay away. The cow herders group would have told the McCain family not to bring his body to the capital or they will shut down the event to show that the office of the President should not be disrespected .
Adams Oshiomhole would have held a world press conference to pour vitriols on the memory of McCain in order to diminish his achievements on earth . He would have pointed out that though McCain carried APC card,he was an agent of the corrupt PDP within their ranks. A threat of expulsion would have followed to any party member who shows up at the unpatriotic funeral.
As a duty to the President , Oga Lai would have instructed the Nigerian Television Authority to ensure a complete black out of the event and ensure that they play some documentary on the achievements of Mr. President throughout the period of the funeral service.
Good night McCain,your funeral shows us our own journey to a settled society has not commenced !