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After several days of a political and media storm over the White House request to make USS McCain less visible to President Donald Trump during his trip to Japan, the Pentagon came out to say that it would not be politicized.
“Secretary (Patrick) Shanahan directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm his mandate that the Department of Defense will not be politicized,” a statement from a Pentagon spokesman read.
It has emerged this week that the White House military office directed the Seventh Fleet to take the warship bearing the name of Trump’s former political rival, John McCain, out of the president’s sight during his speech in Japan. The Navy said the request was not fulfilled and Trump denied any knowledge of the order, calling the staffer who made it “well-meaning.”
The media and pundits have often accused Trump of adding more politics to military issues, from his speeches before the troops to sending the army to the border with Mexico. His trip to Japan saw another similar controversy when American Navy airmen appeared in photos wearing ‘morale patches’ featuring a spinoff of Trump’s campaign slogan, and his cartoon likeness.
A similar media storm raged in December 2018 when he signed MAGA hats for US troops during a visit to Iraq and Germany.
The US military prides itself on being beyond politics, yet it happens to be often involved. With the country in war for 18 years the armed forces’ spending is often on top of the agenda in Washington. Presidential candidates have been seeking military endorsements for decades and haven’t shied away from pushing some politics.
President Barack Obama was criticized by conservatives for imposing the liberal agenda on the military, as well as for politicizing ship names, as was in the case of ‘Harvey Milk’ (T-AO 206).
In fact the US Naval Institute has called on the government to stop imposing partisan names on the ships or at least consult with the Navy first.