During an appearance on CNN Monday morning, former White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short offered up a novel excuse for why President Donald Trump has declined to honor Senator John McCain’s legacy in any way, either through an official statement, on Twitter or when reporters asked him point blank for his thoughts.
“I think it’s a bit of a Catch-22,” Short told New Day host John Berman. “If the president put out a flowery statement about John McCain’s life, the media would criticize it and say it is not consistent with the other things he said about him in the past and it would become a story about the president.”
“The best thing that the president could do right is allow the family its opportunity to celebrate his life and it mourn his loss. And to not inject the president into this,” he continued. “And so the media’s looking to bring the president into this. I think it’s actually respectful for the president to give it space and distance and to allow the family its opportunity to celebrate John McCain’s life.”
Acknowledging that Trump did send his condolences to McCain’s family, Berman asked, “You’re saying it is more respectful somehow to the legacy of John McCain for the president not to thank him for his service?”
Taking a page out of his former boss’ playbook, Short continued to attack the media for trying to take the focus off of McCain and put it onto Trump, who not only has refused to issue a positive statement about the man he once said was “not a war hero” because he was captured during Vietnam. Asked if President Trump now believes McCain was a “hero,” Short would only say that they had a “tense relationship.”
If the president were to issue a statement paying tribute to McCain, Short asked, “would the media cover that and say, ‘Hey, what a graceful statement by the president?’ Or would they simply go and dissect his statements and say that it’s a disingenuous statement and here’s all the things that they’ve disagreed with in the past?”
“I think what the media would say is that the two had a history but at a moment of passing and at this moment where the whole country is expressing their gratitude, the president stepped up to the plate and did the same.”
On that point, they ultimately had to agree to disagree.
In the same interview, Berman asked Short, who is a paid contributor for CNN, whether or not he signed a non-disparagement agreement during his time at the White House that would prevent him from criticizing Trump even if he wanted to. Short insisted that the document he signed only pertained to national security secrets and “confidential conversations” with the president and was therefore able to give his “unvarnished opinion” about Trump’s actions.