'It’s egregious and unforgiving': Arizona voters weigh in on Trump's reaction to McCain's passing

The White House Monday again lowered its flag in McCain's honor.

August 27, 2018, 6:26 PM

PHOENIX, Arizona. -- It’s 100 degrees and there are no trees to provide shade for Vincent Elliott, who is on his second four-hour shift standing beside the sign at the entrance to the mortuary where Sen. John McCain’s body is being held before the public viewing on Wednesday.

Elliott is a veteran of the Iraq War and a member of the POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard here in Arizona, and now they’ve been paying tribute to their fellow veteran and former senator.

Elliott told ABC News that he volunteered to come to the Phoenix facility for a shift on Sunday and another Monday because McCain was “a good man. He did a lot for veterans.”

And it’s that pride in his service that's the source of his frustration with President Donald Trump’s reaction to McCain’s death.

Vincent Elliott is a member of Arizona's POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard and is currently volunteering outside of the mortuary that is holding Sen. John McCain's casket until it's public viewing.
Meghan Keneally/ABC News

“It angers me because John McCain, he fought for the country, he became a POW, and then he went on to serve our country after his military career,” Elliott said. “Personally, I feel like Trump was a draft dodger. You can’t even give him [McCain] the respect for something you didn’t even do yourself.”

Trump’s tepid reaction to McCain’s death is not surprising to some given the publicly acrimonious relationship that the two men had before McCain’s death Saturday. Trump’s public response has included a two-sentence tweet of condolences to McCain’s family and a temporary lowering of the flag at the White House for little over one day as opposed to the traditional lowering until the deceased’s body is interred.

Monday afternoon, facing widespread criticism, the president ordered the White House flag again flown at half-staff until McCain's internment.

The American flag at the White House flies at full staff, Aug. 27, 2018. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a decorated American war hero, died August 25, 2018 at the age of 81, after a long battle with brain cancer.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Elliott is one of several Arizonans who spoke with ABC News about their disgust with the president’s reaction.

Pat Hawks, a longtime Democrat who lives in Bisbee near the southern border, said that she cursed at her dog when she heard about the raising of the White House flag Monday morning.

“The tweet had nothing to say about John McCain and the putting up the flag to full mast before he’s even buried in Annapolis – it’s egregious and unforgiving,” Hawks said.

“With everything, I never cease to be amazed,” she said. “I cannot understand a man who has been the way he’s been about John McCain since the very beginning. There’s never any room for apology from Trump, there’s never any room for atonement and there’s never any room for both sides to get along and respect each other.”

Cooper Miller, a Republican who has already mailed in his ballot for Kelli Ward ahead of Tuesday's primary to fill retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat, is a fan of Trump and while he expressed some misgivings about the handling of the White House flag, the president’s reaction doesn’t bother him too much given his tense relationship with McCain.

“President Trump should have kept it lowered or whatever … I’m not all that disappointed about it. I do appreciate him being honest rather than overly sycophantic about it but he could have done a few things more to show respect for such a war hero,” Miller said.

“I appreciate that he was genuine and nice to the family but the fact is is that he and McCain were kind of enemies so I kind of appreciate that he wasn’t sycophantic,” he said.

President Donald Trump meets with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Aug. 27, 2018.
Leah Millis/Reuters

Marissa Speed, a fellow Ward-supporter from Arizona, agrees, saying that she thought Trump's condolence tweet was "diplomatic" and in keeping with his character.

"I'm glad he didn’t say anything flowery because I would have said 'That’s hypocritical,'" Speed told ABC News.

"I think McCain made it clear he doesn’t want him at the funeral, so why would he pretend to say something that he doesn’t feel? I am fine with it," she said.

For their part, the McCain family’s spokesperson said that “the entire focus of the McCain family is on John McCain. There really is no room in the McCain family to focus on anything today but him. There’s lots to celebrate, there’s lots to mourn, and I think any discussion of what any individual has done or said… If you look at the gravity of all the reactions from around the world, world leaders, our allies, it’s been immense, and I think they choose to focus on that.”

Arizonans across the Copper State will continue to mourn their six-term senator, both publicly with the arranged events on Wednesday and Thursday, and privately.

Republican cattle rancher John Ladd told ABC News that he met McCain multiple times through the years, and though they had their differences, he admired McCain greatly.

“I didn’t agree with his immigration stance but as a person, I had the utmost respect for him,” Ladd said.

“If you asked me who would you want to spend the day with, I’d say McCain.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story used the incorrect state nickname for Arizona. It has since been updated.

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