The Trump administration can’t seem to get its story straight on what happened with the White House asking the Navy to hide the USS Sen. John McCain from Donald Trump’s view during his visit to Japan. Trump himself denies knowledge of the request, and Navy officials claim it wasn’t carried out anyway—that pictures of the McCain covered with a tarp were taken on a different day and that the tarp was there for legitimate preservation purposes. But Trump’s plausible lack of knowledge may make the whole situation even more embarrassing.
Whatever happened with the tarp or a barge that may or may not have been positioned to hide the name of the McCain, the Navy and the White House have not yet had an answer for reports that sailors from the McCain were excluded from Trump’s speech. The New York Times reports that every other U.S. ship in the area was allowed to send dozens of sailors to the speech, while the McCain sailors not only didn’t get invitations but were turned away when some tried to attend. The sailors on the ship the Navy claims it wasn’t trying to hide—even while admitting that the White House asked for it to be hidden—were given the day off, presumably as part of that whole “not hiding the ship” effort.
Anonymous White House aides now admit that the request was made, but insist Trump didn’t know about it. Trump says that “They thought they were doing me a favor because they know I am not a fan of John McCain,” but he “couldn’t care less” about the ship. The big question is which would be worse—if Trump had personally requested to have the ship hidden, at least we’d know that he was capable of planning and forethought and wanted to remove a temptation to say something embarrassing. But the more likely situation is that his aides worried that if Trump saw the name McCain, he would attack the late senator in a way that would yield days of bad press, and so they were trying to plan around his poor impulse control. And when your aides are going behind your back to prevent you from attacking a dead man simply because you see his name on a boat … that’s not a good sign.