Republican presidential candidate and billionaire rabble rouser Donald J. Trump took a direct shot at Senator John McCain this past Saturday at an Iowa campaign rally: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Navy airman John McCain was flying a bombing mission over North Vietnam in his A-4E Skyhawk when he was shot down and captured on October 23, 1967. McCain was imprisoned in the notorious Hanoi Hilton and declined an early release once his captors figured out that he was the son of Admiral John McCain, commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam. Things got rough once he refused to go along with the North Vietnamese propaganda ploy, but McCain never cracked under interrogation and endured 5 1/2 years of torture and incarceration before his 1973 release. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of lifting his arms over his head.
According to a takedown in today’s Washington Post, young Donald Trump received four student deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War while he earned an Ivy League degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He was the son of wealthy real estate developer Fred Trump and he had an easy path into the family business.
The Republican establishment has been quick to condemn Trump’s comments and Secretary of State (and Vietnam veteran) John Kerry took direct aim at The Donald: “John McCain is a hero, a man of grit and guts and character personified. He served and bled and endured unspeakable acts of torture. His captors broke his bones, but they couldn’t break his spirit, which is why he refused early release when he had the chance. That’s heroism, pure and simple, and it is unimpeachable.”
Faced with the enormous waves of criticism, Trump refused to back down or apologize on Sunday: “People that fought hard and weren’t captured and went through a lot, they get no credit,” he said. “Nobody even talks about them. They’re like forgotten, and I think that’s a shame, if you want to know the truth.”
Trump and McCain have a longstanding political feud, mostly because Donald thinks the senator is soft on illegal immigration. Of course, it was Trump’s comments about the perceived dangers of Mexican immigration that have both fueled his rise to the top of the primary polls and led to him losing a wide array of business contracts, including his TV deals for The Apprentice and the Miss Universe pageant.
So many questions: Is John McCain’s war service off limits in a political feud? Does Donald have a point? Do POWs get too a large a share of the spotlight when other men who served in Vietnam deserve more recognition? If you supported Trump’s candidacy before he made this comments, do you still plan to vote for him? Sound off!