Reason Podcast

The Funeral Etiquette of Empire: Podcast

What the reaction to John McCain's death tells us about the values of Washington's political class



This being 2018, the national political discussion at this very moment is about President Donald Trump's insufficiently lowered flag mast following the death of the longtime senator, former prisoner of war, and noted Trump foil John McCain. It's a momentary skirmish in a week-long battle over funeral manners in the wake of a powerful person's death, and so yes we go there on today's editor-roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast.

You will also hear in this episode a spirited argument between Peter Suderman, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and me over whether Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whether Reason will become the president's biggest defender if he's run up on campaign finance charges, and whether the "Bill Clinton" option of impeachment is the best case for the country.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'Aspirato' by Kai Engel is licensed under CC BY NC 4.0

Relevant links from the show:

"John McCain, the Senate's Most Influential Hawk, Is Dead," by Matt Welch and Todd Krainin

"Press Goes Wild Over President 'Snubbing' John McCain But Barely Blinks Over $82 Billion Boost to War Spending," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"John McCain's Lessons About Torture," by Matt Welch

"A Libertarian Take on John McCain's Restless Wave and the Legacy of an 'Authoritarian Maverick': Podcast," by Nick Gillespie

"John McCain: Iraq War 'Can't Be Judged as Anything Other Than a Mistake'," by Matt Welch

"Will McCain-Style Conservatism Live On?" by Matt Welch

"McCain Semi-Recants Bailout Support; Hopes Arizonans Have Short-Term Memory Loss," by Matt Welch

"Conservatives Would Use Mollie Tibbetts' Murder To Build the Police State They Once Denounced," by Nick Gillespie

"Rep. Justin Amash: Don't Impeach Trump Just Because You 'Dislike' Him," by Joe Setyon

"Americans Should Impeach Presidents More Often," by Gene Healy

"Is Everyone in Washington Lying? Cohen, Manafort, Trump, and More," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"The Unindicted Co-Conspirator in the Oval Office," by Steve Chapman

"Trump Might Be a Criminal. But So Is Everyone Else.," by Clark Neily

"Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort Are a Reminder That Donald Trump Surrounds Himself With Crooks," by Peter Suderman

"Donald Trump Should Stick it to Jeff Sessions and the 'Deep State' by Pardoning Reality Winner," by Scott Shackford

"Criminal Justice Reform in Congress Is On Hold, but Advocates Remain Hopeful," by C.J. Ciaramella

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NEXT: Greg Gutfeld on Trump's Genius, Fox News After Sex Scandals, and the Power of Punk

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I kind of resent that by the end of the week I’ll probably know the historical average number of days that the white house leaves flags at half-mast following the death of a sitting senator.

    1. For me personally, Obama beat it to death. I’ve been moderately in favor of flag etiquette for a while but during his administration, I recall seeing the flags at half-mast all over the place, having no idea why, and thinking “What a hassle.”

      If this practice doesn’t survive the Trump presidency at all or even just returns to a more exceptional occasion, I’d consider it a win.

    2. 4 USC 1, all current and former members of congress to have half mast day of death and day after. The president can also decide about half mast flag flying for prominent members of government who die.

      McCain died saturday late. So sunday would have been the only full day. Government buildings are supposed to raise and lower the flag at night unless they have lighting system to illuminate the American flag.

      Trump is correct about etiquette.

      1. You’re confusing law and ettiquette.

        The Flag Code is some shit made up by some dipshits with too much power and time on their hands.

        Ettiquette is a consenual, collective, agreement on behavior.

        Not that I think the current ettiquette surrounding the fetishization of political figures isn’t disgusting, but pointing to a toothless set of laws and going ‘see, we did the minimum’ doesn’t give you a pass.

        Not that I think Trump’s doing anything wrong here. If it were up to me the flag wouldn’t be at half mast for these assholes. Then again, up to me, there wouldn’t be a fetish for flying the flag and putting up Stalin’s picture in every office in the first place.

        1. I think the 4 USC 1 was more to codify the etiquette. It might also been to establish a law so they could go after flag burners. Wearing the flag as clothing is prohibited but there are stars and stripes bikinis, etc.

          Flag burning clearly violates the code section for treating the flag with respect but is completely constitutional 1st Amendment speech.

          I think most people respect the US flag and what it means even without knowing all the little etiquette rules.

          I debated posting what code section, as it might send EscherEnigma into a seizure but “it’s gonna happen” (Always Sunny reference).

          1. I debated posting what code section, as it might send EscherEnigma into a seizure

            If you think I actually care about this topic, you need to recalibrate. This is a case where I’m fully onboard with calling this “fake news”?, and am poking fun at the fact that we’re going to be hearing about it for a week with endless nonsense analysis.
            ?Meaning, in this context, not that an event is being reported untruthfully, but that it should not be news-worthy.

          2. Burning is the proper way to dispose of a worn out flag.

            1. Yes IceTrey. Burning is the proper way to dispose of a worn out flag. I am sure there are bunch of worn flags and proper respect is taken to not desecrate the flags. The idea is to respectfully get rid of flags that are not useful anymore.

              That’s different than stomping on the flag, setting it afire, and doing it because you hate America (All constitution)

          3. Yeah, but you seem to be assuming that once codified it can’t change without permission – or at least being written down again.

            In any case, the Flag Code wasn’t codifying etiquette. It was a prescription written by people who wanted you to behave in a certain way because they felt you must and that they had the power to make that happen. Its just a tiny group telling everyone else how to behave according that tiny group’s desires.

            1. Just like the Founders wanted to codify protections for some natural rights and spell out hard-to-change restrictions for a small Constitutional Democratic Republic.

              You want Anarchy-land dont you?

              1. No, but I also don’t want a small cabal of self-selected idiots telling me what to do on the most trivial of matters either. And that’s what the Flag Code is.

      2. See? It’s only been a few hours and now I already know that the god-damned flag code actually has a section on this topic.

        Can’t we just assume that Trump is, in a rare moment of honesty, being just as rude to McCain in death as he was in life? Do we have to develop metrics to measure his rudeness?

        1. As long as we can admit that McCain was being rude to Trump.

          1. Sure, why not?

        2. Can’t we just assume that Trump is, in a rare moment of honesty, being just as rude to McCain in death as he was in life?

          Why would that require a “rare moment of honesty”? Trump was rude to McCain in life. I just wish more people had been.

    3. I hate listening to and hour-long chat that would take me five minutes to read.

  2. This is one of those ‘don’t be the first to stop clapping’ situations.

    1. Easy to resolve: don;t start clapping, and you can never be first or last.

      1. Dude, if Stalin gives a speech – you clap.

  3. >>>battle over funeral manners in the wake of a powerful person’s death

    much less power than advertised. also as peasant, fuck all that.

  4. Gooks? Orientals? You don’t get to use those words. Only we get to use those words.

  5. What a goddamn baby we have as president. Thanks, idiots.

    1. Hey, don’t blame me. I voted for Hillary Clinton, the most qualified candidate ever. Blame Russian hacking for tricking other would-be Clinton voters into supporting Putin’s Puppet or staying home.

      Oh, and also blame the Comey letter.

      And GamerGate.


      1. Not everyone can have such legitimate reasons to vote for a person as “I want to put a nutcase in the White House to ‘shake things up.’ Maybe the monkey will type out Hamlet on the first try!” or “Our long national nightmare of not being able to call black people niggers to their faces is over!”

        1. Oh I absolutely agree. There were tens of millions of people who were going to vote for Drumpf even if Russia hadn’t hacked the election, Comey hadn’t sent the letter, and GamerGate hadn’t existed. It’s just that those factors, combined with the indefensible Electoral College, carried Orange Hitler to a “victory” in an election he still lost by 3 million votes.

          1. Stop telling lies, douche. Trump actually would have won the election if it weren’t for the massive electoral fraud committed by the government of Mexico in collusion with the State of California and the Democratic Party to deny President Trump an outright victory in the popular vote. And please… collusion with Russia was done by Democrats? not Republicans. You sure are confused! You need to get educated. I suggest, where you can also learn something about how Twitter, a fascist entity, is violating the 1A. Learn before you post, ok?

          2. Here’s a deal: Hillary gets to be President of California, where 150% of her 3 million vote lead came from, and Trump gets to be President of the rest of the country.

            The electoral college did exactly what it was intended for in 2016: It kept a candidate who had localized fanatical support, and was opposed almost everywhere else, from winning on the basis of getting almost all the votes in one area, and then ruling over the country like occupied territory.

            1. +1 Brett.

            2. California is “localized”? More than Bumfuck, Wyoming?

        2. you know people who think those things?

          1. I see them on TV but I try not to get within smelling distance.

          2. Apparently Tony’s TV grants him telepathic powers.

            1. Why do members of the master race never have a well-proportioned body type, hair on their heads, or instincts toward hygiene?

              1. What master race are Americans again?

        3. Apparently you can use the term anytime, right asshole?

          1. I believe in manners, but not so much in censorship or treating interlocutors like babies.

            1. Tony says a lot of things. 100% of them are lies.

      2. #StillWithHim

    2. What a goddamn baby we have as president. Thanks, idiots.

      Good to know that the team blue tears spigot hasn’t run dry.

      1. Yes. Who is more babyish, the person who acts babyish or the clowns who pretend to be outraged by it?

        1. The president. Of the United States.

          1. Obama is not president anymore goober.

  6. Reason’s Favorite rehabilitated war monger doesn’t have flags half masted in his honor long enough.

    Stay tuned for the their contribution to the continuing national cryfest.

  7. Of the top hundred things to worry about, this ranks somewhere around the ability of the President to adequately work a speakerphone.

    Now, if we kept the flags half mast for all the victims of his wars….

    1. Like 15 US military deaths.

      Obama was at about 750 US military deaths by this point in 2010. Obama’s civilian deaths was probably in the tens of thousands. The media didnt want to count those civilian deaths.

      Obama also had one dead Yemeni-American that he ordered murdered by drone which also killed his 16 year old American son.

  8. If Rodham ever kicks the bucket they can fly the flag half-assed.

    1. If John Wayne Bobbitt dies they can fly the flag half-cocked.

    2. If Bruce Jenner dies, they can fly the rainbow flag.

      1. If Bruce Jenner dies don’t expect a 21 gun salute, you can’t fire a gun that’s not cocked.

  9. Law, or Etiquette?
    We codify etiquette to ensure consistency; Rule of Law v. Rule of Man.

    1. Who codifies? Emily Post codifies. The US Congress issues diktats.

      1. Yet you still live in the USA (?) for some reason.

  10. The worst cholera epidemic in human history is raging in Yemen do to the US and Saudi Arabia and this is the big story. I can’t wait for this shithole to implode.

    1. Technically, the “shithole” is the place where there’s a raging cholera epidemic. That’s kind of what causes cholera epidemics.

      And ISIS doesn’t have anything to do with it?

  11. If anyone ever asks me, I would reserve half-mast flags for head of state, cabinet officials, and Medal of Honor winners. Past presidents, maybe.

  12. How many days of fireworks would be appropriate following McCain’s death?

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