Why Does Trump Attack McCain and Conway?

Ken AshfordMental Health, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

President Donald Trump’s feud with the late Sen. John McCaindates back many years, to long before the real estate magnate launched a campaign for president.

Trump, who occasionally re-airs his grievances with the late Arizona Republican, launched a new line of attack during an address in Ohio Wednesday, suggesting the McCain family never thanked him for “the kind of funeral that he wanted.”Trump’s role in the services were limited to allowing McCain’s body to fly on planes used as Air Force Two.

As the lurid disputes dominated cable news for several more hours, it was unclear whether Trump had any strategy in mind. Some people close to Trump speculated that he might be consciously trying to remake the news environment — creating a bizarre spectacle to displace criticism of his tepid response to the massacre of dozens of Muslims in New Zealand, the timing of the administration’s decision to ground Boeing’s 737 Max jets, and frenzied anticipation around the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.

But the saga has left even White House aides accustomed to a president who bucks convention feeling uncomfortable. While the controversies may have pushed aside some bad news, they also trampled on Trump’s Wednesday visit to an army tank manufacturing plant in swing state Ohio.

“For the most part, most people internally don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said one former senior White House official. A current senior White House official said White House aides are making an effort “not to discuss it in polite company.” Another current White House official bemoaned the tawdry distraction. “It does not appear to be a great use of our time to talk about George Conway or dead John McCain. … Why are we doing this?”

The Conway stuff may be more explainable, since Conway is alive (unlike McCain) and clearly baiting Trump. And Trump takes the bait, making it news.

The Conway and McCain feuds nonetheless revealed a handful of truths about the president and his White House, starting with the president’s hair-trigger sensitivity over accusations of mental instability. After the author Michael Wolff raised questions about Trump’s mental health in a 2018 book, the president lashed out — despite warnings that he was only inflating Wolff’s book sales — and insisted that he was a “stable genius.” Those who know him say these barbs are a point of particular sensitivity, and his dispute with Conway appears to have originated from the attorney’s recent suggestions that Trump is mentally ill.

After tweeting images from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the text medical professionals use to diagnose mental illness — listing the characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Conway charged that Trump is “unfit and incompetent for the esteemed office you temporarily hold.”

“I don’t think that Trump is laughing at that,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump casino executive who has become a critic of the president. “He takes that stuff pretty personally.”

By the way, Trump saying he had to approve McCain’s funeral arrangements?