President Donald Trump is not noted for being taciturn, and Arizona Senator John McCain doesn’t suffer fools. So, that the two would butt heads would seem all but inevitable, but McCain’s Liberty Medal speech is just the latest shot in a lengthy war. Let’s run down a brief history of the barbs these two have exchanged, which all began around the time that Trump announced his presidential candidacy.
- July 18, 2015: Trump fires the first shot by saying that he “likes people who weren’t captured,” which was a reference to McCain’s years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Trump refuses to apologize despite enormous criticism from GOP leadership, including from McCain’s good friend, Senator Lindsay Graham.
- July 21, 2015: Trump delivers an apology on Bill O’Reilly’s show that many viewed as insincere.
- September 9, 2015: Trump’s remarks are revived again when it comes out he believed going to prep school was better than actual military service in terms of service to one’s country.
- August 1, 2016: McCain distances both himself and the GOP from Trump’s attacks on the service of Humayun S. M. Khan and his parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan:
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
- August 2, 2016: Trump refuses to endorse McCain for reelection. The refusal has no impact whatsoever on McCain’s poll numbers.
- October 8, 2016: McCain withdraws his endorsement of Trump over the Access Hollywood hot mic scandal.
- October 11, 2016: Trump complains that McCain won’t vote for him and refers to him as “foul-mouthed.”
- November 1, 2016: John Kasich symbolically votes for McCain.
- November 21, 2016: In response to Trump’s remarks about “enhanced interrogation,” McCain bluntly informs Trump that the U.S. is not allowed to torture people.
- January 11, 2017: It’s revealed that John McCain informed the FBI of the notorious Steele dossier, which included, among other claims, that Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a bed in which Obama once slept.
- February 2, 2017: After a bizarrely contentious call with the Prime Minister of Australia, John McCain expresses America’s unwavering support for the nation. Later in the year, it will be revealed McCain has been quietly working in foreign policy, smoothing over Trump’s missteps.
- February 9, 2017: The first military raid under Trump’s supervision, in Yemen, fails, and McCain criticizes the raid. Trump, in response, insists McCain “has been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore,” stoking widespread outrage yet again.
- February 19, 2017: McCain points out that Trump’s statements about the press as his enemy are “how dictators get started.”
- March 12, 2017: McCain is called on to explain Trump’s insistence that the Obama administration wiretapped him, and seems unable, and unwilling, to do so.
- May 10, 2017: McCain votes against the repeal of an Obama administration environmental rule — a rare failure on the part of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation on a floor vote. McCain’s motive is widely alleged to be Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey.
- July 19, 2017: John McCain announces he’s been diagnosed with brain cancer. Trump offers a press release as a response, a sharp contrast to the reaction of leaders across the political spectrum. McCain thanks his well-wishers before turning around and blasting Trump’s Syria policy.
- July 28, 2017: McCain effectively kills any attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, one of Trump’s centerpiece political claims. It’s believed, however, that McCain was protesting the rushed attempt to pass the bill, instead of lashing out at Trump.
- August 26, 2017: McCain blasts Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, noting that “nobody is above the law.”
- September 23, 2017: After weeks of rumors over Trump’s supposed fury at McCain, Trump takes to Twitter to complain about McCain’s health care vote.
- October 17, 2017: McCain offers a thinly veiled criticism of Trump’s foreign policy in his speech accepting the Liberty Medal:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Trump responds shortly after with vague threats that he “fights back and it won’t be pretty.” In turn, McCain answers, “I have faced tougher adversaries.”
One thing is certain — this feud isn’t even close to complete. Stay tuned for the next dramatic episode…