"Dumb" might not be the best adjective. Maybe it's "unpatriotic" or "forgetful" or something else.
Amidst Lesley Stahl's adoring interview Sunday night on 60 Minutes, there was this:
Lesley Stahl: Did he ever apologize for saying you're not a hero?
John McCain: No.
Lesley Stahl: If the president wanted to have a rapprochement with you, would you be receptive?
John McCain: Of course. Of course. I've supported him on national security. I've supported his team-Lesley Stahl: But personal. I'm talking about man to man--
John McCain: Personal? Sure. I'd be glad to converse with him. But I also understand that we're very different people. Different upbringing. Different life experiences.
If Donald Trump were to apologize to Senator McCain for contending the latter is not a war hero, it would be insincere. However- even though he has neither apologized nor acknowledged an error- Donald Trump has agreed that John McCain was a hero. Two months ago ABC News reported
President Donald Trump is hailing Sen. John McCain as an "American hero" today as the Arizona senator, under treatment for a brain tumor, returns to the Capitol for a vote on the Republican health care bill.
But during the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump denigrated the war record of McCain, who served many years in the U.S. Navy and who during the Vietnam War was captured by the North Vietnamese, held as a prisoner of war and tortured.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said of the Republican senator at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."
Now Trump is saluting McCain for returning to Washington, D.C., for the vote to start debate on the GOP Senate leadership's health care legislation.
"So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero!" Trump tweeted. "Thank you John."
I know what you're thinking: Trump merely was kissing Senator McCain's posterior because he need him at the time.
There is something to that. But there may be an additional reason.
When Trump derided McCain as not a war hero because "I like people ho weren't captured," he was running for the Repub nomination for President. He had to establish among GOP voters the image of someone who not only is a winner, but who has patience only for winners. McCain, Trump was implying, was a loser: he was captured. Trump, by contrast, promised GOP voters as early as February 2016 "We're going to win so much, you're going to get tired of winning."
Trump convinced GOP voters and he was nominated (video below from 7/15). He then had to win independent, and even a few Democratic, voters, which proved especially critical in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There was no more about John McCain not being a war hero.
Of course there wasn't. Trump was able to sell the idea to Repub voters and knew intiuitively it wouldn't fly among Independents and Democrats.
Maybe GOP voters have a harder time recognizing patriotism or courage than do Independents or Democrats, a sobering thought when considering the self-righteousness indignation toward NFL players respectfully conveying their disgust with what they view as an unjust criminal justice system.
Or perhaps it's something else. Elizabeth Spiers has explained that when she edited The New York Observer and Jared Kushner owned it, during the 2011-2012 election cycle when Donald Trump was flirting with a presidential run
...at one point, we aggregated a relatively neutral story from the Times, but it happened to have some negative information and then Jared wanted to discuss it. And I said, well, you know, we`re just taking the neutral summary of it. And he said, well, Elizabeth, you know, if you spent time with my father in law, you`d really like him.
And I said, well, that might be true, but it really wouldn`t change the way the paper covered him. Then I said, I have to be honest with you, your father in law has done some things that I find morally repellent. And he said, like what? And I brought up the birther stuff. He said I just find it categorically – it`s racist. And he looked at me and said, well Elizabeth, you know, he doesn`t mean any of those things, he`s just saying it because he thinks Republicans are dumb and they`ll buy it.
She's not sure if Kushner was lying. Nonetheless, there is some reason Donald Trump was not hurt- and probably was helped- by slamming John McCain as "not a war hero" when the eventual nominee began his primary run.The man knows a thing or two about political strategy and as the party's nominee, appealing to a broad swath of the American public, held his lip about the Arizona senator.
Your mileage may vary about what that says about Republicans vs. Independents and Democrats. Whatever it says, though, is nothing trivial.