A full two days after John McCain’s death, President Donald Trump finally signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until McCain is laid to rest.
The announcement was made minutes after the flag at the White House returned to half-staff, following a day where it was flown at full-staff in an apparent snub of the Republican senator and war hero who died of brain cancer on Saturday at age 81.
The flag continued to fly at half-staff at other government sites across Washington, including at the Capitol and at the Washington Monument.
The up-and-down flag drama laid bare the lack of sympathy Trump showed for McCain throughout his public battle with brain cancer and even after he died.
At an Oval Office press event earlier Monday, the president refused to address McCain, sitting in silence as reporters repeatedly shouted questions about the late senator’s life and legacy.
Trump briefly addressed McCain’s death in a tweet offering his “deepest sympathies and respect” to his family, but did not mention his military service. The president reportedly vetoed a statement drafted by White House officials that labeled McCain a “hero.” In the time since the senator’s death, Trump has tweeted about Tiger Woods, retired NFL star Jim Brown, his own polling numbers, economic figures, and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Throughout McCain’s terminal illness, Trump continued to publicly disrespect him. He declined to say McCain’s name when signing a bill that was named for him, and said he was “not a war hero” despite enduring torture during more than five years held in Hanoi as a prisoner of war.
McCain has been eulogized from across the political spectrum from George W. Bush and Barack Obama—both of whom McCain had requested to speak at his funeral—and even in Vietnam, where the man who was in charge of the prison where McCain was kept praised his ”toughness.”
But the current commander in chief has failed to muster any warm words—and has now thrown away tradition and, despite enjoying lecturing others about respecting the flag, appears to be using it again as a political weapon.
He’s criticized National Football League players who protest police brutality as failing to respect the flag and the national anthem, and at the State of the Union address in January praised a kid for starting a movement that placed flags on veterans’ graves.
“Preston’s reverence for those who serve our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put out hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem,” Trump said.
In June, the president turned heads by giving a U.S. flag on a podium an awkward embrace at a conference for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, where he delivered a stinging rebuke of immigration policy and touted his disastrous “zero-tolerance” border policy.
He also repeatedly and awkwardly hugged the flag—breaking into uncharted territory of protocol and Old Glory etiquette—during campaign stops in New Hampshire and Florida.
McCain will lie in state in both the Arizona Capitol and the U.S. Capitol Rotunda before his burial in Annapolis on Sunday.