Jack Shafer laments
I'm almost certain that a samizdat chapter of the Associated Press Stylebook exists that prohibits journalists from writing anything praiseful about Republicans—except when one dies or if the Republican’s name is John McCain.
Sen. McCain, who died this week, went to his grave festooned with a bundle of the most radiant tributes from the reporters who covered him. Taking to Twitter, the airwaves and print, journalists choked back tears to gush about how much the man meant to them.
Although offering many examples, probably the sappiest and worse was when
Sunday on MSNBC, anchor Kasie Hunt had to be restrained from throwing herself on his funeral pyre as she addressed him directly. “Sen. McCain, after a decade of trying to keep up with you in those marble hallways, I know the place that you so loved is going to be a lesser place without you,” Hunt said. “My hope for this Congress and this country is that remembering and honoring your life and legacy, sir, will inspire the best among us to serve as you did. Godspeed.”
But almost all of these instances are harmless, encomiums most easily analyzed by a skilled behavioral psychologist.
Not so the tweet from Tom Brokaw, who remarked
pres trump - you are commander in chief by law, duty bound to honor sen mccain— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) August 27, 2018
ignoring his death is a disgrace
Tom Brokaw was anchorperson and managing editor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004 and has an estimated net worth of $70 million. Still, he needs to be introduced to Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which reads "[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."
McCain served in the Armed Forces from 1959 to 1981. His commanders in chief included Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Though Brokaw argues that by President Trump's role as commander in chief, Trump is "duty bound to honor sen mccain," Donald Trump never was John McCain's commander-in-chief. During Trump's reign, John McCain was Senator John McCain.
Donald Trump is not "duty bound to honor" Senator McCain. It is not one of the functions the Constitution mandates of a President. Rather, he is expected as a matter of decency to recognize appropriately McCain's death, which he has failed to do.
Were we to accept the notion of the president as commander in chief of citizens, our First Amendment rights would be severely abridged. If President Trump had been the Commander in Chief of a civilian such as John McCain, he is Commander in Chief of all of us. And if he is your commander in chief, you are duty bound to obey him and refrain from criticizing him. Just ask General Stanley McChrystal.