While campaigning in Iowa this weekend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lashed out Sen. John McCain’s military record, saying, “I like people that weren’t captured.”
McCain, a former Navy pilot, was shot down over Vietnam while flying his 23rd mission during the Vietnam War. He spent more than five years as a prisoner of war at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was starved and tortured by the North Vietnamese…
The wealthy New York real estate tycoon who made a name for himself by firing people on the reality show The Apprentice never served in the U.S. military.
Trump managed to avoid serving in the Vietnam war because of a series of draft deferments. Asked why he didn’t serve, Trump said, “I had student deferments and ultimately had a medical deferment because of my feet. I had a bone spur.” But Trump said he did not recall which foot was injured and instructed reporters to look up his records.
Trump added, “I was not a big fan of the Vietnam War. I wasn’t a protester, but the Vietnam War was a disaster for our country. What did we get out of the Vietnam War other than death? We got nothing.”
It’s a good time to revisit the full story of McCain’s 5.5 years held captive and even tortured in North Vietnam, during which guards actually asked him if he wanted to leave early because he was an admiral’s son. Here’s how it went down when “The Cat,” the commander of the prison camps, offered him early release, according to a gripping Arizona Republic profile from 2007:
McCain realized that the Code of Conduct gave him no choice. [Everett] Alvarez, who was being held elsewhere, was supposed to be the first man released.
“I just knew it wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said. “I knew that they wouldn’t have offered it to me if I hadn’t been the son of an admiral.
Sean Spicer, the communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that McCain “is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period.”
“There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” Spicer added.
Today Governor Perry released the following statement in response to Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments on Senator John McCain.
“Donald Trump should apologize immediately for attacking Senator McCain and all veterans who have protected and served our country. As a veteran and an American, I respect Sen. McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump. His comments have reached a new low in American politics. His attack on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.”
Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 18, 2015
America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 18, 2015
I don't always see eye to eye with @SenJohnMcCain. But I honor his service and the sacrifices he made for our country.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 18, 2015
If there was ever any doubt that @realDonaldTrump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
I know @SenJohnMcCain. Senator John McCain is an American hero. Period. Stop.
— Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie) July 18, 2015
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) July 18, 2015
After Donald Trump spends six years in a POW camp, he can weigh in on John McCain's service
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) July 18, 2015
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called McCain an American war hero, but sidestepped when asked whether he would condemn the remarks.
“I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican on Republican violence,” Cruz said. “You want me to say something bad about Donald Trump or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else and I’m not going to do it.”
At a testy press conference after his performance, and as the real-time scorn for his comments dominated Twitter, Trump doubled-down. He pretended that his criticism came because McCain “has not done enough for veterans in this country…I see the veterans. I’m with the veterans all the time. Some of these people wait four or five days just to see a doctor.”
Of course, if Trump had even passing knowledge of the current controversy over care for U.S. veterans, he would understand that some veterans wait literally months before seeing a doctor – not just four or five days. But fact-checking Donald Trump is like picking up after a dog with diarrhea; there’s just not much point.
I asked Trump if he was blaming John McCain for his capture, as his comments implied. “I am saying John McCain has not done a good job,” Trump responded, dodging the question…
And after that, I asked Trump if he had ever read any accounts of McCain’s time in captivity before he suggested McCain is not a war hero.
I am not a fan of John McCain because he has done so little for our Veterans and he should know better than anybody what the Veterans need, especially in regards to the VA. He is yet another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job and helping the Vets. He is also allowing our military to decrease substantially in size and strength, something which should never be allowed to happen.
Furthermore, he was extremely disrespectful to the thousands upon thousands of people, many of whom happen to be his constituents, that came to listen to me speak about illegal immigration in Phoenix last week by calling them “crazies”.
These were not “crazies”—these were great American citizens.
I want to strengthen our military and take care of our Veterans. I want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN especially for those that serve to protect our freedom. I am fighting for our Veterans!
Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The Daily Beast that Trump’s comments were “asinine” and an insult “to everyone who’s ever worn the uniform and to all Americans.”…
Trump claimed, in an April interview on WNYW, that he avoided the Vietnam War because “I actually got lucky because I had a very high draft number.” He said, while attending the Wharton School of Finance, that “I was watching as they did the draft numbers and I got a very, very high number and those numbers never got up to me.”
But The Smoking Gun reported that Trump’s draft number was 365, and when it was drawn on Dec. 1, 1968, “18 months after Trump graduated” from the Wharton School, Trump “had already received four student deferments and a medical deferment,” according to records obtained by the publication.
Rieckhoff joked, “He was so interested in seeing the president’s birth certificate, I’m sure he’d be willing to provide the documentation about that.”
Trump’s comment doesn’t just target McCain — who I don’t care about — but all POWs. “I prefer the guys who don’t get captured” — oh, so those lousy POWs are incompetents and not classy and deserve their captivity because they were just too dumb not be superheroes, I guess?…
And the problem is not just this comment; the problem is that we see now that this is a habit. Someone claimed to me yesterday that Trump had “balls.” I countered: He doesn’t have balls, he has Money — he’s a rich guy surrounded by favor-seekers and yes-men who hasn’t been contradicted since he first spat the silver spoon out of his mouth. He has the arrogance that college athletes get sometimes, that lead some of them to do horrible things — the arrogance of knowing there will never be consequences.
I don’t call that balls. Balls — courage — is taking on an important fight knowing there will be consequences.
This is just an elderly rich kid with a big mouth.
Mr. Trump’s candidacy probably reached an inflection point on Saturday after he essentially criticized John McCain for being captured in Vietnam. Republican campaigns and elites quickly moved to condemn his comments — a shift that will probably mark the moment when Trump’s candidacy went from boom to bust…
His comments were nothing less than an invitation for the rest of the Republican Party to begin their long-awaited offensive. So far, the Republican National Committee, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have already criticized him for his comments.
After today, Republican commentators and campaigns will have far fewer reservations about attacking Mr. Trump. They will be dismissive of his candidacy, and they will probably diversity their attacks, expanding the onslaught to include his record of donating to Democrats and his continuing support for universal health care. Nearly all of the campaigns have incentives to pile on, and Mr. Trump — without a deep base of support and with few party allies — will struggle to hold on.
He will probably try to stoke support and coverage with more attention-grabbing remarks, though my hunch is that his act will have lost its novelty by the time the attacks begin to take their toll. Voters will be looking for more from him than the bombastic campaign he has offered so far. They will be looking for a serious presidential candidate, and they won’t find one.