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Sunday, October 23, 2016

By John Whitesides

AMES, Iowa (Reuters) – Republican presidential contender Donald Trump disparaged U.S. Senator John McCain’s war record on Saturday, saying the former prisoner in North Vietnam was only considered a war hero because he was captured.

The confrontational real estate mogul, who has been feuding with the Republican senator from Arizona for days, also criticized McCain’s work in the Senate and called him “a loser” for his defeat in the 2008 White House race.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at a gathering in Ames, Iowa, of religious conservatives after the event’s moderator, pollster Frank Luntz, used the phrase to describe McCain. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

At a news conference later, Trump softened his comments, saying, “If a person is captured, they are a hero as far as I’m concerned.”

McCain, a Navy fighter pilot, spent more than five years during the Vietnam War in a Hanoi prison after being shot down, and was tortured by his captors.

Trump also criticized McCain for failing to do enough in the Senate for military veterans.

“John McCain talks a lot, but he doesn’t do anything,” Trump told reporters.

His comments drew swift denunciations from many rival Republican presidential contenders and became the latest in a series of controversies to engulf the publicity-loving billionaire since he jumped into the race with harsh rhetoric about Mexican immigrants.

The comments also were certain to remind party leaders, already nervous about Trump’s recent rise to the top of opinion polls, about his unpredictability ahead of the first Republican debate in early August.

The harsh reaction seemed to indicate that many Republicans had lost patience with Trump.

“There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” said Sean Spicer, chief strategist for the Republican National Committee.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said on the campaign trail in Sioux City, Iowa, that McCain was clearly a hero. “Enough with the slanderous attacks,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said on Twitter.

“Donald Trump owes every American veteran, and in particular John McCain, an apology,” said former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who said Trump’s comments called into question his legitimacy as a potential president and commander in chief.

In a statement released after his appearance, Trump said he was “not a fan” of McCain and added: “I have great respect for all those who serve in our military, including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”

But Trump said at the news conference he would not apologize to McCain. McCain did not immediately respond to Trump.

Trump told reporters he used student deferments and later a medical deferment for what he said was a bone spur to avoid military service during the Vietnam War.

“I was not a big fan of the Vietnam War,” he said.

He made the McCain comments during the summit sponsored by Christian conservative groups. Iowa is the first state to vote in the nominating contests leading up to the November 2016 election.

Luntz, the event’s moderator, launched the discussion when he questioned Trump’s recent criticism of McCain as a “dummy,” which came after the senator said Trump’s candidacy had brought out the “crazies.”

“I supported McCain for president,” Trump said of the Arizonan’s 2008 run. “He lost and let us down. … I’ve never liked him as much after that. I don’t like losers.”

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs for supporters at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, United States, July 18, 2015. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

  • elw

    Well you have to give Donald credit for his chutzpah, it really takes some to question a war hero’s record when you have not even served.

    • mpjt16

      As an infantry Viet Nam veteran I tend to agree with Trump on this issue. In today’s world, every person in a uniform is a hero. They aren’t. Now as then, most people are in the service because that was the best option available to them. And their MOS is not combat. A guy who is a cook or company clerk is not a hero just because he is in a military unit. We have gone way over the top on this issue. Then these poor guys get out and no one will hire them, their wives are long gone and depression becomes PTSD. McCain was a pilot who was shot down. That doesn’t make him a hero, just one of the few who were really unlucky enough to get shot down. He served his country well and that is about all. He opposed the GI Bill plan for Iraq and Afghanistan vets because he thought too many would opt out. The GI Bill was a fantastic benefit for me as a VN era vet. And post WWII it was one of the greatest economic engines in the country. He should have been lobbying to expand the benefits not restrict them.

      • elw

        I hear what you are saying, and you are making an intelligent and thoughtful comment. I am not a McCain fan by any stretch if the imagination. However, from you the same concept is reasonable, from someone who manipulated to dodge the draft, it is inappropriate and takes Chutzpah. I think the Donald, has lots of other things he can hit McCain on, but picking one of the areas he is vulnerable in is rather stupid. I was actually making a joke, I have no fear that “the Donald” will ever be President. Perhaps that next President will be able to expand the GI Bill – I know I would vote for it, if I could. It was a great help for my brother and really help him put his life together after he served.

        • mpjt16

          Trump is a dope. What he says is irrelevant, or certainly should be. It is great to see the media coverage comparing him to all the other Republican fools from 2012. When he flames out, it will be interesting to see who takes his place as the parties blow hard. Probably Ben Carson.

          • elw


        • charleo1

          Well said-Agreed! And it should also be mentioned, if memory serves. McCain, the POW son of a high ranking Naval Office, was offered the chance to come home months sooner. But voluntarily chose to stay until all POWs that were sharing confinement with him were also released. An act many considered heroic at the time. And I’m sure many of his former cell mates still undoubtedly do. McCain hails from a family with a long tradition of service to this Country. The point being, he served. Mr. big mouth, on the other hand, the pampered rich brat, got an education deferment, and then a medical exemption, and did not.

          • elw

            Thanks Charle1, McCain is definitely stand higher on the hero scale than Trump, he is also a better man.

      • oldtack

        Amen Brother! Well stated.

        I was of a different time period and a different action but I had nephews that fought in Vietnam – one severely wounded and later interred in Arlington National Cemetery. I remember well the protests and the treatment many returning Vets received. A time of pure disgrace to this country.

        Thank you for your Service.

  • Karen Bille-Golden

    Having neither a filter nor a moral compass it would appear Donald is going to self-destruct sooner rather than later. .The highest job in the land, and he still thinks he’s on
    the “Apprentice” Way to go Donald.

    • charleo1

      I would judge Donald self destructing as a huge loss….. for the Democrats!

      • old_blu

        Me too, he is the greatest thing to happen to the Democrats since Palin.
        GO TRUMP ! !

  • Lynda Groom

    Well perhaps Trump will make his non-existent ‘war record’ available. Yeah right!

    • charleo1

      I’m waiting for him to show HIS birth certificate! BTW. What ever happened to that crack team of investigators he sent to Kenya to find Obama’s “real birth papers?” What a buffoon!!!

      • old_blu

        Sheriff Joe is going to release the prove of a fake birth certificate, and blow this out of the water any day now. Hahahaha!
        (don’t hold your breath charleo1)

        • charleo1

          Right! And if I ever get real hard up for cash, I’ll just leave my false choppers under my pillow, and the tooth fairy will take care of next month’s rent!

      • Karen Bille-Golden

        Do they even issue birth certificates to people.who crawl out from under a rock? …I know I shouldn’t post this, it’s not nice. But, I can’t stop myself.

        • charleo1

          Not to worry, it’s the closest thing to nice I’ve heard anybody say about Trump all day!!

    • neeceoooo

      I like the fact that Huffington Post, has decided to list any news on Dumb dumb in the entertainment section and not the news or political section.

  • Paragryne

    Republicans had no problem trashing Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, or swift boating John Kerry and hilariously passing out Purple Heart band aids at their convention, so screw ’em all.

    • Dominick Vila

      The real reasons so many Republicans denounced Donald’s remark is because (1) they are in full damage control mode, and (2) because doing so may be an effective way to get rid of a troublesome competitor.

      • neeceoooo

        It would be nice however, if they would wait for another 12 months before distancing themselves from the lunatic.

  • old_blu

    Way to go Trump!
    Go Trump! We love you, and support you, you’re the greatest thing that’s happened to us since Palin.
    Sincerely: The Democrats.

    • charleo1

      That’s right! Don’t stop talking now Donald Duck. You’re on a roll! Quack! Quack!

    • neeceoooo

      When I think of Trump, I think of a slug, with a slimy trail following him wherever he goes

  • latebloomingrandma

    Since he hates losers so much, how does he explain his multiple bankruptcies.

  • docb

    This sleaze has no moral or ethical compass and spews stupidity at every level.
    He is the fat little bully whose mother told him he was cute and he never had to be responsible because daddy bought him out of scrapes with the law and schools..Then gifted him with a big inheritance and a good name that he sells!
    Ugly used car salesman and little neanderthal,

    • neeceoooo

      The more he spews garbage, the more the trump name goes farther down the gutter. Good name, maybe not.

  • booker25

    Trump sez he didn’t serve because he had a foot problem, foot in mouth problem is more like it, just call Trump for what he really is, a draft dodger, an entitled one from the 1% class.