Is Everyone Missing the Real Reason Trump is Outrageously Attacking John McCain?


For the past several months, I have been saying that many ardent Trump critics are going to be profoundly disappointed once Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is finally completed. There simply doesn’t seem to be any indication that Mueller is going to be able to prove full-on “collusion,” and President Donald Trump, either by dumb luck or masterful design, has already won the all-important expectations and timing games.

My thinking has been that, because expectations dictate nearly everything in life, evidence of lesser crimes like obstruction of justice, perjury, witness/jury tampering, and abuse of power would somehow be perceived as vindication for Trump. All of which will be particularly bizarre when it comes from Mueller, the well-respected Republican war hero, who the president has constantly claimed, without evidence or logic, is engaging in a “witch hunt.”

The amount of information pushing truly objective people (as opposed to those many anti-Trump commentators who have become literally invested in something akin to the “Manchurian Candidate” theory of Trump/Russia) to this conclusion is really rather overwhelming. However, there has been one factor which has kept me from personally declaring the Mueller investigation “dead” when it comes to revealing bombshells which might fundamentally alter the political landscape.

Donald Trump’s own behavior.

One of the most difficult elements of interpreting the actions of Trump is that he has so many psychological ailments that it is nearly impossible to know when he is legitimately nuts, and when he is simply acting “crazy like a fox.” That’s where his recent bashing of deceased war hero John McCain comes into this maddeningly blurry picture.

For the past several days, Trump has attacked McCain in numerous ways. All of which have been seen, nearly universally by non “Cult 45” members, as totally inappropriate coming from a president of the United States, or even just a human being, even blatantly lying about him along the way (specifically Trump grossly mischaracterized McCain’s dramatic vote on Obamacare, which was NOT against “repeal and replace,” but merely a “skinny repeal,” which no one wanted to become law).

There has been much, quite understandable, speculation about what might be driving Trump’s sudden and insane desire to dunk continuously on dead man who was his own party’s presidential nominee just eight years before he was. Much of it has centered on Trump’s personal insecurities, specifically with regard to him having dodged the very same Vietnam War which caused McCain to spend five brutal years in a POW camp.

There is no doubt that this theory resonates on multiple levels, however, it does not necessarily fully explain the timing, nor the ferocity, of these seemingly infantile, jealousy-fueled, diatribes. That’s why we should at least consider that something else could be motivating part of this apparently very strange behavior.

The headline from yesterday’s broadside against McCain was Trump whining about not being thanked for giving McCain the funeral he wanted. Forgetting for a moment that Trump had very little to do with actually approving McCain’s long goodbye, that was not at all how the president launched into his criticisms of a man no longer around to defend himself.

Instead, Trump actually spent more time on McCain’s alleged role in the controversial “Steele Dossier” becoming public, which Fox News highlighted just before the president began his suddenly renewed his recent focus on the former Arizona senator. This just happened to come on the heels of Trump using his Twitter feed last week to continually bring attention to issues he sees as discrediting the dossier, specifically the overstated charge that it was funded by “Crooked Hillary.”

Trump’s continued obsession with the dossier seems to make no sense based on the current factual record and political realities. As Russian Roulette co-author Michael Isikoff told me a couple of months ago (in an interview favorably tweeted about three times by the president), there are many details of the dossier which have been effectively accepted, even by the news media, as discredited, and literally no one who matters has been talking about it recently.

Except, of course, for Trump. But why?

Well, it might be that Trump is still extremely bothered by the dossier because he knows something that we currently do not. This could be in the realm of something damaging from the dossier that actually is about be proven to be true, or it could be out of anxiety he has over the Russia investigation in general, and he is desperately trying to make the rather dubious case that the entire probe is illegitimate because its fruit is born of the poison tree that was the Steele dossier.

Under this theory, Trump’s seemingly self-defeating attacks on McCain are motivated by anger (fear?) over his vulnerability to the Russia investigation, which he absurdly blames McCain for having caused him. It could also be that Trump feels he needs his cult to be fully prepared to discount anything related to the dossier, and that fomenting anger and distrust of McCain, because of his rather minor role in its timeline, is part of that strategy.

It always dangerous to overthink Trump’s real motivations, but sometimes it is also hazardous to under-think them as well. This may be one of those times where the media is doing the latter more than the former.

Regardless, until Trump starts acting like a totally innocent man when it comes to the largest issues facing the Russia investigation, it is very difficult to conclude that he is, even when, against your own self-interest, you are inclined to do exactly that.

John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

[Photo via Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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