Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that President Trump initially erred by not acknowledging the late Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) service to the country, but that his reversal in a later statement undid some of the damage.
Carter, who turns 94 in October, weighed in on Trump’s response to McCain’s death in a pair of TV appearances in which he also promoted his post-presidency work with Habitat for Humanity.
“I thought that President Trump made a mistake at first” by issuing a tweet that made no mention of McCain’s service, Carter told Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto.
Trump’s critics and supporters later made the president’s misstep clear to him, Carter said, adding: “I think his last statement that I read yesterday has basically corrected that.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Carter elaborated further, saying that the proclamation Trump issued Monday was “still not as enthusiastic as it should be.”
After McCain’s death on Saturday at the age of 81, Trump rejected the advice of top aides who advocated releasing an official statement that gave the decorated Vietnam War POW plaudits for his military and Senate service and called him a “hero.” Trump instead offered words of condolence to the senator’s family in a tweet that made no mention of McCain’s storied service in the military and on Capitol Hill.
As criticism mounted, Trump later changed course and said in a statement Monday: “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.”
In the proclamation, Trump also ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff until McCain’s burial, a reversal that came hours after flags were raised to full-staff early Monday.
Carter told Cavuto that he prays for Trump and hopes the president will promote human rights and keep the United States out of war. He also reprised some of his criticism of Trump as having a loose relationship with the truth, telling Cavuto that Trump “has made statements that were not exactly correct.”
“I think that John McCain and I, who were both graduates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, were imbued with a principle that the truth was preeminent and was a real test of integrity,” Carter said. “Any kind of misleading statement that you made at the Naval Academy would result in instant dismissal.”
But he also struck a hopeful note.
In his interview with MSNBC’s Mitchell, Carter noted the Naval Academy’s strict requirements and said, “I think we’ll get back to that standard in the future.”
While the United States is “looked upon with a great deal of doubt” across the world, Carter added, “over a period of time, the resilience and the basic ideas of our country will prevail.”