EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Johnny Isakson Stands Up for McCain; Unloads on Trump

Source: The Bulwark | March 20, 2019 | A.B. Stoddard

Georgia’s senior senator gives the president a “whipping.”

Later today Sen. Johnny Isakson will call out President Trump for his continued disparagement of John McCain. The chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the service of any veteran, let alone McCain, should never be besmirched, that president’s comments “drive me crazy,” and that he plans to speak out at length on Wednesday.

Isakson had warned President Trump. When McCain died on August 25th and the flag at the White House remained at full staff, then went down to half staff but back again within one day—before the traditional end of the period of interment—Georgia’s senior senator considered the show of disrespect “unthinkable.” He took to the floor of the Senate and declared:

I don’t know what is going to be said in the next few days about John McCain by whomever is going to say it or what is going to be done, but anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping because most of those who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn’t have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn. We need to remember that. So I would say to the president or anybody in the world, it is time to pause and say that this was a great man who gave everything for us. We owe him nothing less than the respect that he earned, and that is what I intend to give John in return for what he gave me.

On Tuesday, Isakson told me he plans to deliver the promised whipping. “I want to do what I said that day on the floor of the senate,” he said. “I just want to lay it on the line, that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better, I don’t care if he’s president of United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us.”

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Trump’s insistence on attacking a war hero—while he is himself the commander-in-chief, cannot be excused, Isakson said:

America deserves better, the people deserve better, and nobody—regardless of their position—is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life. When the president is saying that that he doesn’t respect John McCain and he’s never going to respect John McCain and all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead it just sets the worst tone possible.

Isakson resists cable news chat shows and Twitter, is closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and is now proudly 25th in seniority in the Senate. He chooses when and how to speak out with great caution.

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