President Trump’s continuous badmouthing of the late Senator John McCain dominated headlines on Wednesday. The words were certainly bonkers even by Trump’s standards. “I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as President I had to approve,” Trump said, falsely. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank-you, that’s okay. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”
Trump takes credit for giving McCain funeral he wanted, says he "didn't get a thank you" pic.twitter.com/aJQ27RvzX1
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) March 20, 2019
There is a school of thought that says we should stop paying attention to words like this. We already know the man is a buffoon, indeed those of us paying attention have known it since the 1980s. Any extra tidbit doesn’t give us new information. What matters is Trump’s policies and the scandals he is enmeshed in.
As Matthew Yglesias of Vox tweeted:
How much time has the Discourse spent on Trump’s feud with a dead man versus the Trump administration’s effort to increase the level of water pollution?https://t.co/9vaHURru9z
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 20, 2019
Yglesias has a good point in that we shouldn’t expend any umbrage on the McCain comments, which are trivial compared to other Trumpian misdeeds. Still, we can’t dismiss the McCain stuff completely. The fact is, the presidency is a position of real power even with an addled President. Trump could, among other things, launch a nuclear war at anytime. So the state of his mental wellbeing, alas, has a real-world impact.
Trump’s inability to let go of the McCain stuff speaks to a troubled personality: his touchiness, his tendency to bear a grudge, his reckless spite. This damaged personality is a major fact about Trump. It explains much of what has gone wrong in his presidency. It’s ridiculous to think too much about McCain’s name being besmirched (after all, McCain was a flawed figure, although for reasons other than what Trump complains about). Rather, Trump’s antics are important for showing us how trapped Trump himself remains in his own personality.