At an Iowa summit for social conservatives on Saturday, leading Republican presidential candidate and perpetual thirst machine Donald Trump questioned whether Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, qualifies as a war hero:
Trump's New Comments on McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) July 18, 2015
Donald Trump on John McCain: "Hes a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured. Perhaps he's a war hero."— Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) July 18, 2015
A video posted by BuzzFeed shows Trump's full remarks.
This partial clip shows that some in the crowd at the Family Leadership Summit laughed at Trump's "I like people that weren't captured":
Here is the clip of Trump's pathetic comment on John McCain. pic.twitter.com/nGwxriq390— Austin Barbour (@Austin_Barbour) July 18, 2015
Donald Trump never served in Vietnam. He's claimed in the past that he would have gone if drafted, but his draft number — the lottery number assigned to American men over 18 to determine the order in which they could be called into service — was too high. But records discovered in 2011 show that Trump got draft deferments from 1964 to 1968, while he was a college student, as well as an additional deferment afterward for medical reasons.
Trump is picking a fight with McCain because McCain has criticized Trump's inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants. Trump has also called for someone to challenge McCain in a primary for his Senate seat in 2016. In fact, in a statement released shortly after the summit, Trump elaborated on his opinions of McCain, without any apology:
Trump still not over McCain saying that Trump fired up the "crazies" pic.twitter.com/n3slyFHWpa— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 18, 2015
But this is also in keeping with Trump's approach to his presidential candidacy — so far, it appears that Trump's strategy is to keep making provocative comments and keep getting covered by the press for them. It's not yet clear whether Trump's POW-bashing is enough of a deviation from conservative orthodoxy to make Republican voters turn away from him.