The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans service organization is calling on President Trump to re-lower the American flag to honor Arizona Senator John McCain’s life, death and dedication to the United States.
The organization urged Trump in a statement Monday to follow longtime protocol following the deaths of prominent government officials, after the White House raised the flag to full staff less than two days after the Senator’s death.
“Senator John McCain was an American hero and cherished member of The American Legion,” the statement read. “On behalf of The American Legion’s two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment.”
McCain, who died Saturday at 81, is a decorated Vietnam War hero who spent more than five years as a prisoner-of-war in North Vietnam, after his plane went down and he was captured. He was imprisoned and tortured for more than five years following the crash.
Trump tweeted his condolences after news of the Senator’s death broke, but did not mention McCain or issue any statement, instead aiming his tweet directly at McCain’s family.
The tweet accurately portrayed the strained relationship between the two Republicans over the last several years. During Trump’s presidential campaign, they bickered fiercely and often, with Trump going so far as to claim that the Senator wasn’t actually a war hero, referring to McCain’s five year imprisonment during the Vietnam War, when his plane was shot down and he was captured.
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said at a campaign event in Iowa in 2015. The comment was not well received, and pundits predicted that Trump’s bid for the White House was sunk.
Despite the White House raising the flag back to full staff, Senate leaders of both parties have formally requested American flags at government buildings remain at half-staff to honor McCain’s legacy.
The actions of the White House flying the flag at full staff have angered thousands of people, with many accusing the president of being disrespectful and petty. The hashtag #NoRespect started trending on Twitter, with several users calling the White House out for going against an Eisenhower proclamation that defined specific terms for how flags were supposed to be flown on government buildings following the death of a head of state.
Here’s a relevant passage from the proclamation.
“The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.”
Huffington Post White House correspondent SV Date reports that the White House said it was following protocol, claiming the half-staff tradition is one and a half days, which is not how the 1954 proclamation reads.
The American Legion also reminded President Trump that he had issued proclamations commemorating the deaths of former first lady Barbara Bush and pastor Billy Graham, and that the same should be done to honor McCain.
“Senator John McCain was an American hero and cherished member of The American Legion,” the statement continued. “As I’m certain you are aware, he served five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and retired from the U.S. Navy at the rank of Captain. He then served in the U.S. Congress for more than three decades.”
Before his death, McCain decided against having Trump at his funeral, but made sure to invite former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who are expected to speak.
Update: August 27, 3:18 p.m.
President Trump did eventually release a statement regarding McCain’s death, stating that he “respected Senator John McCain’s service to our country” and would be providing military transportation of his remains from Arizona to Washington D.C.
He also signed a proclamation to lower government flags to half-staff until the day of his internment. Trump was receiving significant backlash after the White House was spotted with the <a href=”https://heavy.com/news/2018/08/the-american-legion-trump/”>flag back at full staff</a>, less than two days after news broke of McCain’s death.
The statement also stated that Trump was having General john Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent his administration at McCain’s funeral. Vice President Mike Pence will be honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.