Trump nixes statement praising McCain

WASHINGTON: This undated handout photo shows John S McCain III (lower right) during flight training. He was a hero, a statesman who cut a towering figure in Washington. But for many in the increasingly angry world of American politics, John McCain will be missed for a far humbler virtue-simple civility. — AFP

MOSCOW: Russian pro-Kremlin media pulled no punches yesterday in condemning John McCain, who died of a brain tumor at the weekend, as Washington's "chief Russophobe". McCain, who died aged 81 on Saturday, irked Russia with his support for pro-Western leaders in ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine as well as his strong backing for sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea. "McCain became the chief symbol of Russophobia," Rossiya 1 television said, adding that he "couldn't stand Russia's independent foreign policy".

McCain "adored war. If you haven't been killed yet, that's not McCain's fault. He tried," wrote pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in a biting editorial. Accusing the former Navy pilot of lying about being tortured while being held prisoner during the Vietnam War, the popular tabloid concluded with the hope that McCain is now burning in hell. "Senator McCain loved the flames of war. Let's believe he'll have enough flames where his soul is resting now," it wrote.

Life News, a pro-Kremlin tabloid news site, mocked the "chief Russophobe" for his decision to publish a 2013 op-ed aimed at Russians on an obscure news site called He apparently believed the website to be connected the once-powerful Soviet newspaper Pravda. "Evidently no one told the senator that there had been certain changes in Russia since his time in captivity in Vietnam," it wrote. McCain was "a convinced hawk who pecked at Russia out of principle," Rossiya 1 reported on its main news show on Sunday evening, devoting more than four minutes to the senator's life.

McCain "firmly supported all the military operations and wars that America unleashed-Kosovo, Iraq, Libya-if he had not twice lost presidential campaigns, everything could have been even more catastrophic," it reported. The high-rating show included the detail that McCain "was shot down in Vietnam by a Soviet SA 75-Dvina missile complex". While stressing McCain's contempt for President Donald Trump, the show predicted that US "attempts to restrain and isolate Russia with harsh sanctions will continue-just now without John McCain". Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a message of condolences, but none was forthcoming from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Senate's international affairs committee, wrote on Facebook that McCain's "only ideology" was "protect your own and beat up the others". However some Russian politicians showed their respects. Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee, told the RIA Novosti state news agency that McCain was a "courageous and principled person". Oleg Morozov, a member of the Senate's foreign affairs committee, on Facebook praised McCain's frankness. "An enemy died, salute him for honest enmity, for honest hatred, for refusal to reconcile. Others dissemble. He said what he thought."

Trump nixed statement

Donald Trump rejected a statement prepared by his aides that praised John McCain, according to the Washington Post, underscoring the US president's enduring scorn for the late senator and war hero. While tributes have poured in highlighting the Arizona Republican's lifetime of service, Trump issued a single, terse tweet on Saturday that sent his "deepest sympathies and respect" to the bereaved family, without any words for McCain himself.

The absence of a formal communique from the White House has raised eyebrows and was all the more conspicuous after Vice President Mike Pence along with most of the cabinet, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and all the living former presidents had issued their own statements over the weekend. Citing unnamed current and former White House aides, the Post said Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other senior staff had advocated for a statement that called McCain a "hero." The statement was prepared and given to Trump for his approval, but according to the paper the president told aides he preferred to tweet instead, and it was ultimately not released.

McCain was one of Trump's sharpest critics, and made clear in one of his final wishes as he struggled with brain cancer that he did not want the president to attend his funeral. The roots of their animosity go back to when Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in June 2015, suggesting that many Mexican immigrants were criminals and "rapists." McCain denounced him for using language that "fired up the crazies," while Trump said McCain was a "dummy" who had barely managed to graduate from the US Naval Academy.

He went on to attack McCain's service in the military, saying of the onetime prisoner of war: "I like people that weren't captured." As McCain's health ebbed, he missed few opportunities to lash out at the president. He was one of just three Republican senators to vote against-and thus defeat-a Trump-backed effort to repeal Barack Obama's signature health care law. Following McCain's death, admirers have recalled with fondness his insistence on fair and civil discourse-in contrast with the frequent incivility of the US president and his habit of coining unflattering descriptions of political foes. - Agencies