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John McCain’s heroism was lost on Donald Trump, but clear to the rest of us

President-elect Barack Obama meets with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John McCain, and Rahm Emanuel on Nov. 17, 2008, shortly after Obama had beaten McCain in the presidential race. | Martinez Monsivais/AP

It’s been a troubling week.

A rough one if you are Roman Catholic and faced with the latest horror dealing with the clerical sex-abuse scandal.

An especially tough one watching President Donald Trump’s attempts to dishonor the legacy of the late, great U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Well, why not admit it?

I rarely weep.

But I did so this week . . .

• Watching Cindy McCain rest her cheek on her husband’s coffin.

• Listening to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham memorialize the man who told him honor can accompany compromise, and the importance of patience in waiting for an opponent to catch up with your thinking.

• Reading McCain’s comment about the loss of his lifelong friend, Adm. Chuck Larson, who died in 2014 and next to whom he will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis: “Goodbyes are impossible,” he said. “We have been too close for too long to part company now.”


It was disturbing to think of the phone conversation I had with Trump on Aug. 4, 2015 — when he was running for president — about McCain, whom he had just trashed for NOT being a Vietnam War hero because he’d been captured.

It appeared Trump was stumped for an answer to my question about McCain’s heroism.

Here are segments from the interview, where we discussed Trump’s no-holds-barred style that has been described as bullying by his critics:

Trump: “I am impatient, but I am not a bully. I just can’t stand politicians and people who are incompetent. I don’t suffer fools lightly.”

Sneed: “I certainly did not agree with your negative assessment of John McCain not being a Vietnam War hero because he was a POW.”

Trump: “Why is that?”

Sneed: “Well, because I have a little history there.

“I’ve been a reporter for nearly 48 years and covered the return of nine Marine POWs who were imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton shortly after their release and return to Camp Pendleton in the early ’70s . . . and they all talked about their reverence for McCain and his heroism.”

Trump: “Oh.”


Trump: “Well, I’ll be in Chicago in a few weeks and we’ll have a meeting.”

Well, we never did have that meeting; Trump cut short his next trip to Chicago because of unrest outside his planned rally at the UIC Pavilion.

Although he never apologized to McCain for what he had said, he never mentioned it again.

I do not know what later happened to the nine Marine POWs (“The Pendleton 9”) who came home to a microcosm of divorce, death and disease following their release — along with McCain — from years of imprisonment at the Hanoi Hilton in 1973.

But I do know one of them died recently of a cancerous brain tumor, and, like McCain, revisited the Hanoi Hilton before he died.

They had survived capture, torture and imprisonment.

And they had exited heroes.


McCain’s example hasn’t been completely lost on Americans

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EDITORIAL: Sen. John McCain — American patriot, the real thing

John McCain, senator, war hero and presidential candidate, dies at 81

McCain & the mayor . . .

It was a special time.

But it was the final time.

On a quiet afternoon in June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel paid what became a farewell visit to a man he honored on the opposite side of the political aisle: U.S. Sen. John McCain.

They did not talk much about the time Emanuel was a Bill Clintonite or a Hillary supporter and a Barack Obama adviser — or the time Emanuel helped negotiate the 2008 presidential debates with McCain’s close friend, Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, before McCain lost the presidential battle to Obama.

Instead, the mayor, an avid book reader, brought along a book by author Craig L. Symonds titled “American Naval History: A Very Short Introduction.”

They thumbed through the book and talked Navy, two men who had fought their own political battles.

“We also talked a lot about the beauty of the Arizona countryside,” said Emanuel, who along with wife Amy Rule had lunch with the frail senator and his wife, Cindy, in their home overlooking Sedona’s famous Red Rocks and legendary Oak Creek, which winds its way through McCain’s ranch.

“Senator McCain and I got along because while we worked in different branches of government, supported different parties and were from different generations, in our hearts we both believe it’s a special honor to serve the public,” Emanuel told Sneed.

In the spring, Emanuel reached out to Cindy to check on the senator’s declining health and was told the McCains would “love them to come and visit.”

So it was on McCain’s back porch they all looked out the window at what would soon become his last view of the world three months later.

Sneedlings . . .

Today’s birthdays: Cameron Diaz, 46; Warren Buffett, 88; and Jordan Rodgers, 30.