Sen. John McCain said President Donald Trump still hasn’t apologized for disparaging his war record on the campaign trail, but signaled he had put the matter behind him and would be open to reconciling with the president.
During an interview with “60 Minutes” broadcast late Sunday, host Lesley Stahl asked the Arizona Republican whether he would be receptive to a “rapprochement” with Trump, who mocked him in 2015 for being captured and imprisoned during the Vietnam War.
“Of course. I’ve supported him on national security. I’ve supported his team,” McCain said.
“But personal,” Stahl asked. “I’m talking about man to man.”
“Personal? Sure,” McCain said. “I’d be glad to converse with him. But I also understand that we’re very different people.”
CBS News started promoting the interview around the same time Friday that McCain announced he would not vote for the latest Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, potentially dooming the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. McCain said he thought lawmakers could develop better legislation by working across the aisle.
Trump tweeted his outrage at McCain’s decision early Saturday morning, saying the senator had betrayed his state and his colleagues.
“John McCain never had any intention of voting for this bill, which his governor loves,” Trump wrote.
In July, McCain broke with his party and voted against a different ACA repeal measure that the White House and Republican leaders hoped would deliver on years of promises to unravel the health care law. Cameras captured the dramatic moment late that night when McCain approached the Senate clerk, raised his arm gave a thumbs down, sinking the legislation and infuriating the president.
Tension between Trump and McCain goes back years. Shortly after Trump announced he was running for president in summer 2015, he ridiculed McCain’s military service at a summit in Iowa. McCain, a decorated U.S. Navy pilot, was imprisoned in Vietnam for more than five years, during which time he was tortured and kept in solitary confinement. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, adding “I like people that weren’t captured.”
The remarks, which have tainted the relationship between the two men ever since, came up again in McCain’s interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday. After playing a clip of Trump’s words, Stahl asked if McCain’s theatrical “no” vote in July was “more like a middle finger” and an attempt to retaliate against Trump.
“If I took offense at everybody who has said something about me, or disparaged me or something like that — life is too short,” McCain said. “You’ve got to move on. And on an issue of this importance to the nation, for me to worry about a personal relationship, then I’m not doing my job.”
The interview also touched on Trump’s decision to end DACA, the Obama-era program that allowed young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
Trump has met with Democratic leaders in recent weeks to discuss a legislative deal to allow hundreds of thousands of dreamers, as the young immigrants are called, to remain in the country. The White House has offered conflicting messages about whether such a deal is feasible, and some in Trump’s conservative base have recoiled at the possibility.
Stahl asked McCain if the president had “initiated divorce proceedings with Republicans.”
“I don’t know what he’s gonna do tomorrow or say tomorrow,” McCain told the host. “He changes his statements almost on a daily basis. So for me to spend my time trying to analyze what he says, I don’t know.”
When the conversation turned to Trump’s comments about McCain’s war record, McCain said the president had never apologized to him. He said he would be happy to talk with Trump but noted that they had “different life experiences.”
“He is in the business of making money and he has been successful both in television as well as Miss America and others,” McCain said. “I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.”
McCain has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump. In a commentary for The Washington Post last month, he urged members Congress to seek compromise with each other, even if it means bucking the president. Trump, he said, “has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.”
“We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates,” McCain wrote. “We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”
McCain, 81, was diagnosed with an deadly brain cancer called a glioblastoma in July. He receives chemotherapy and radiation treatment in the mornings, then heads to the Capitol for work. The cancer is fatal for many patients. McCain said he would not let the disease slow him down.
He told “60 Minutes”: “It’s a very poor prognosis. So I just said, ‘I understand. Now we’re gonna do what we can, get the best doctors we can find and do the best we can.’ And, at the same time, celebrate with gratitude a life well lived.”
“I am more energetic and more engaged as a result of this,” he added, “because I know that I’ve got to do everything I can to serve this country while I can.”