Why Did The White House Raise Its Flags So Quickly After McCain’s Death?

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: The United States flag is seen at half mast in honor of the fallen Dallas officers at The White House on July 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
August 27, 2018 10:31 a.m.

As many reporters noticed Monday morning, the flags atop the White House that were lowered to half staff on Saturday out of respect for Sen. John McCain’s death have already been raised back to their normal height.

Despite the anger the move has whipped up, according to U.S. flag code, this is in keeping with the rules. A member of Congress is supposed to get the flags lowered on the day of his or her death, as well as the day after.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The fast turnaround seems to break with recent precedent, however.

According to a Monday NBC report, President Barack Obama twice issued proclamations to keep flags at half mast until burial for senators who died in office: Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI).

President Donald Trump opted not to sign a proclamation honoring McCain.

Per Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) communications director, Senate leadership is stepping in to get the flags lowered.

Presidents get wide latitude in deciding when to lower the flags, and for how long. Until 1923, there were no regulations around flag display. Even after Congress adopted the code on Flag Day June 14, 1923 they have become akin to guidelines and cannot elicit punishment.

President George W. Bush was the first to make common practice lowering the staff for natural disasters, and President Barack Obama lowered the flag more than any other President.

Much of the ire around Trump’s treatment of the flags for McCain likely stems from the President’s well-documented disdain of the veteran lawmaker.

Trump reportedly nixed a White House statement that praised McCain and his legacy, instead opting for a tweet that simply conveyed his sympathies to the McCain family. Trump’s Instagram tribute took it a step further, reposting the text from his tweet alongside a photo of himself.

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