The late John McCain was capable of true graciousness, but if you got on the wrong side of him he was a nasty piece of work. You could say the same thing about President Trump, if you took out the part about graciousness.
Once candidate Trump ridiculously denied that McCain was a war hero, the Senator’s nasty piece of work side was always going to prevail in his approach to the future president. Thus, it’s not surprising that McCain handed the slanderous Russia dossier on Trump to law enforcement.
McCain’s act did not trigger the Russia investigation. Moreover, I don’t think we can conclude that McCain knew the dossier was “fake news.” McCain would say it was his patriotic duty to give the document to the FBI.
However, I have little doubt that McCain was taking his revenge on Trump. And I have no doubt that Trump views the matter that way.
This doesn’t excuse Trump’s detour, during a speech yesterday to factory workers in Ohio, into an attack on the late Senator. I don’t think it even fully explains the detour. Trump is so full of resentment towards McCain that it would be foolish to single out just one grievance as being at the root of his bizarre digression into the subject of McCain.
Many of us, I think, hold various resentments to one degree or another. We do our best to keep them below the surface, especially the ones involving people who are no longer with us. When our resentments reach the surface, we generally try not to express them, at least not to strangers.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump isn’t like that. He is full of resentments and he is consistently unable to keep them to himself and his inner circle. The former flaw is not unheard of in a president — think Richard Nixon. The latter surely is.
Sometimes, Trump’s eagerness to express resentment works to his political advantage. His attacks on various members of the press are a good example.
Trump gains no political advantage, however, by attacking John McCain at this point. The only advantage Trump accrues here is internal satisfaction.
Is it disadvantageous for Trump to attack McCain, though? Probably not. Trump’s over-the-top nastiness is well known to voters. Some are fine with it. Others dislike it but support Trump because they like most of his policies and prefer him to any candidate the Democrats might put forward.
The latter group is the key to Trump’s reelection bid. It’s difficult to see many of them switching sides over one more shot at John McCain and one more manifestation of Trump’s dark side.
Some of McCain’s former GOP colleagues in the Senate are upset about Trump’s attack, of course. Their resentment will soon be submerged, I suspect. It will bubble up only if Trump get into serious trouble. In that event, there might be hell to pay.