In 1954, then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation that defined in very specific terms the protocol for how flags were to be flown on government buildings and vessels in America and all its territories and commonwealths following the death of a head of state.
Sen. John McCain died Saturday at 4:30 p.m. but it was not announced until Saturday evening. The White House flag was lowered Saturday evening and remained lowered to half staff on Sunday. But by dawn Monday, the American flag atop the White House had been raised from half-staff to full staff.
And, Pres. Donald J. Trump did not issue a proclamation upon war hero John McCain’s death and may have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of Eisenhower’s proclamation by having the flag raised to full staff Monday morning.
A mistake or deliberate action is unknown, but the photographs show that indeed, the White House’s Old Glory is flying high on a sun-drenched summer day in the nation’s capitol.
Meanwhile, at the Capitol, the flag is at half staff in honor of McCain.
The proclamation found in the Federal Register may be interpreted to read the American flag should be flying at half-mast in the District of Columbia. Or at least that’s how some have interpreted it to read and thereby permit the President to lower it. But pettiness of that act, if by design, has some angered calling it disrespectful.
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.”
Just before 10 a.m. Monday, it was reported by the Huffington Post White House correspondent SV Date 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. If read to the letter, it says two days at least including the day of death. It also reads that the flags in any federal building or vessel in the senator’s home state, district or territory remain at half staff until internment. The statement from the Trump White House that was reported on says only a proclamation by the President can move the flag. A proclamation that has not as of yet been decreed if indeed it will be.
“WH explanation: protocol for a member of Congress’s death results in flag at half staff for a day and a half. Anything more requires a proclamation.
Is so, the president who said McCain was not a hero, and that he prefers people who did not get captured, would have to approve.”
In photos all over social media, flags around the Washington Monument are at half-staff as the flag atop the White House is at full staff. But not at all federal buildings. It appears there’s no consensus among the Trump Cabinet as there seems to be a
general confusion about the status of the flag orders. It’s reported, with photos to boot, that the American flag at the James V. Forrestal Building building, the Department of Energy, is at half-staff and the U.S. Department of Agriculture building is flying its Stars and Stripes at full-staff.
Member of Congress Ted Lieu has called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to order flags lowered.
Dear @SecPompeo: You served on active duty. As a nation mourns McCain, it would be appropriate to lower the flag to half staff at all @StateDept buildings. I respectfully request you give that order, regardless of the views of @realDonaldTrump. It is the honorable thing to do.
By late Monday afternoon, Trump relented, issued a proclimation and ordered flags to fly at half mast until Sen. McCain is buried. But only after public outcry. And a letter from the American Legion.
And here’s the proclamation, issued Monday at around 4 p.m., two full days after McCain’s death.