Now playing
00:44
Trump: I never was a fan of McCain, I never will be
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10:  The Trump International Hotel is shown on August 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.  The hotel, located blocks from the White House, has become both a tourist attraction in the nation
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: The Trump International Hotel is shown on August 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. The hotel, located blocks from the White House, has become both a tourist attraction in the nation's capital and also a symbol of President Trump's intermingling of business and politics. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Now playing
01:56
Why SCOTUS is dismissing emolument cases against Trump
John Avlon 0125
John Avlon 0125
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:08
Avlon: The Republicans who stood up to Trump were our bulwark
Now playing
03:19
Some GOP lawmakers are defying Capitol security measures
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:17
Sen. Romney: Senate trial after Trump leaving office is constitutional
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:25
Biden's HHS secretary pick: If we do this, we will get the pandemic under control
Now playing
07:26
'What research did you do?': Brown presses GOP lawmaker on election fraud claims
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:42
Acosta describes covering last day of Trump administration
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends a press conference with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) about their new bill called the EV Freedom Act on Capitol Hill on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. The EV Freedom Act is a plan to create a nation wide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends a press conference with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) about their new bill called the EV Freedom Act on Capitol Hill on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. The EV Freedom Act is a plan to create a nation wide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Now playing
03:35
Rioter charged with threatening to 'assassinate' Ocasio-Cortez, officer
Now playing
02:41
Loyal Texas Trump voters want Biden to be less divisive
Now playing
01:16
Sen. Patrick Leahy doubles as a Batman actor
Now playing
01:33
Chuck Schumer announces timeline for Trump impeachment
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event on economic crisis in the State Dining Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event on economic crisis in the State Dining Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration's response to the economic crisis that caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and signed two executive orders. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
02:31
Biden zeroes in on the teetering economy in first week
White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett speaks with reporters at the White House, Friday, June 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett speaks with reporters at the White House, Friday, June 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
PHOTO: Alex Brandon/AP
Now playing
05:08
Ex-Trump official who supports Biden stimulus plan speaks out
Dick Durbin 0122
Dick Durbin 0122
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:41
Sen. Durbin: We can't pass anything without bipartisanship
(CNN) —  

On July 18, 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump said this about John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

On March 19, 2019, President Donald Trump offered this assessment of the late war hero and senator: “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.”

Those two comments – almost four years apart and more than six months after McCain’s death – provide telling bookends to understand just how much Trump has changed Republican politics (and politics generally), and not for the better.

When Trump initially attacked McCain as something less than a war hero in 2015, it was covered as the end of a campaign that never really got started. Trump has been in the race for all of a month. He was still an asterisk in most polling. And everyone who knew anything assumed that attacking McCain’s five years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam – a time that left the Arizona Republican with lifelong wounds – was a death sentence of Trump’s political ambitions.

After all, while plenty of Republicans didn’t agree with McCain’s much-touted renegade nature – and his willingness to buck party leadership – no one ever questioned the man’s service to the country (in the military and in elected office). And doing so was seen as the easiest way to destroy your political future.

Except it didn’t destroy Trump. For all the hand-wringing and predictions of doom for his campaign, he just kept right on going – first to the Republican presidential nomination and then to the White House. For many of his supporters, Trump’s broadsides against McCain were music to their ears – finally someone was standing up to the political establishment in Washington! Trump wasn’t afraid of slaughtering a sacred cow – or all the sacred cows! He didn’t care! And they loved it.

Which brings me to Tuesday and Trump’s comments about McCain, who died in August 2018 after a battle with brain cancer. Here’s all of what Trump said:

“I’m very unhappy that he didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare, as you know. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and then he got to a vote and he said thumbs down. And our country would’ve saved a trillion dollars and we would’ve had great healthcare. So he campaigned, he told us hours before that he was going to repeal and replace, and then for some reason, I think I understand the reason, he ended up going thumbs up, and frankly, had we even known that, I think we would’ve gotten the vote cause we could’ve gotten somebody else. So I think that’s disgraceful, plus there are other things.”

Those comments come after a weekend in which Trump repeatedly attacked McCain, who, in case you forgot, is deceased, for graduating “last in his class” from the Naval Academy and for allegedly sending the so-called Steele dossier to the media. (Trump offered zero proof that McCain had leaked the dossier, put together by a former British intelligence agent, to the press.)

So. Let’s take a step back here and think of what happened here in Washington on Tuesday. Sitting next to the leader of a foreign country, the President of the United States went after a former Republican senator (and former GOP presidential nominee) who not only served in the Vietnam War but spent years of his life being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp. And this is a President who received several deferments during Vietnam, including for bone spurs. In an interview with The New York Times in 2016, Trump called the condition “temporary” and “minor.”

Here’s what I know: These latest comments will cause zero erosion in Trump’s support among his hardcore backers. They will love the wringing of hands and woe-is-me reaction by who they believe to be elites. “He’s freaking them all out! They don’t know what to do with him!”

Here’s what I also know: There are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong – whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or somewhere in between. And attacking a dead man who spent five years as a prisoner of war and another three decades serving the country in elected office, is simply wrong. That’s true if Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or whoever the next president will be did it. (None of them would have said what Trump did about a man with as decorated a past as McCain but the point still holds.

Trump proudly embraces his smashing of political idols. Desecrating the old ways of doing things – and doing so gleefully – he believes is at the root of his political people. It says, he thinks, that he won’t let the rules that past crappy politicians have lived by govern him.

But what Trump’s comments about McCain should remind us of is this: Whether there is political gain to be found in dishonoring a lifelong public servant, it is simply wrong. It is not who we are – or who we should be. That everyone – Republicans, Democrats, independents and all the rest – won’t come together to say that as one is profoundly depressing and disappointing.