WASHINGTON — One Republican senator pointedly called President Donald Trump’s comments disparaging the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “deplorable” on Wednesday — one of only two GOP lawmakers to weigh in on the latest controversy.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said that Trump’s remarks over the past several days had been inappropriate.
“I want to be crystal clear: We can talk about the politics of the military any way we want to, but we don’t talk about veterans any way but to brag on them for the service they render and the job that they do,” he told radio interviewer Bill Nigut of Georgia Public Broadcasting.
“It’s deplorable what he said... It will be deplorable seven months from now if he continues to say it, and I will continue to speak out.”
“There aren’t Democratic casualties and Republican casualties on the battlefield — there are American casualties," added Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee. "We should never reduce the service that people give to this country.”
Mitt Romney of Utah was the only other Republican senator to directly criticize Trump publicly over his remarks since the president launched the first of several days of fresh attacks on McCain.
“I can’t understand why the president would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country and God,” Romney, McCain's former presidential primary rival, tweeted Tuesday.
The latest broadsides by the president, which began Saturday, have included a string of complaints ranging from McCain's decision to pass the so-called Steele dossier containing allegations about the president's conduct on to the FBI to McCain's vote against repealing Obamacare to his record on veterans issues, support for the Iraq War, and funeral plans.
Before Isakson sat down for the interview on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised McCain on Twitter, though he did not mention Trump directly.
“Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate. His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes,” McConnell said.
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., an Air Force veteran, echoed the sentiment. “John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona," she tweeted Wednesday. "Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.”
McCain’s longtime friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has refrained from criticizing Trump directly, though he told reporters outside an event in Seneca, S.C., on Wednesday, that Trump’s comments “hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Senator McCain.”
“I've gotten to know the president, we have a good working relationship, I like him, I don't like it when he says things about my friend John McCain,” Graham said.
Several Democrats slammed Trump and praised McCain.
“Mr President apologize! John McCain is an American hero. He was my friend . I was honored to host him in Miami. How dare you defame the memory of a great American,” tweeted Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., Wednesday.
“John McCain exemplified the values of service and sacrifice, and I am proud to have called him my friend. Glad to see some are willing to stand up to @POTUS’s disgraceful disrespect. Let’s come together and rename Russell Senate Office Building in his honor,” tweeted Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
“We had better be very careful. This guy is trying to discredit one of the natural heroes of our United States Armed Services,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said in an interview Tuesday with NBC News outside the South Carolina statehouse.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that he plans to re-introduce a resolution to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain, an idea praised by McCain's former GOP Senate colleague from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who tweeted that the move would be "a fitting tribute."
McCain’s daughter Meghan slammed the president again Wednesday on ABC’s “The View.”
"This is a new bizarre low. I will say attacking someone who isn’t here is a bizarre low. My dad’s not here, but I'm sure as hell here.”
McCain died at 81 last August from an aggressive form of brain cancer.