Trump fuels GOP fire with McCain criticism

Trump fuels GOP fire with McCain criticism
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Republicans of all stripes spent Saturday hammering Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE for his remarks mocking Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO MORE (R-Ariz.) over his time spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Many of the GOP’s most visible members are suggesting the outspoken billionaire and presidential candidate went too far taunting McCain during a speech Saturday afternoon.
“He was a war hero because he was captured,” Trump sarcastically told host Frank Luntz during the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
The quip came after Luntz challenged Trump’s criticisms of McCain’s political career.
The pollster questioned his verbal attacks on McCain, calling him a “war hero.”
“I supported McCain for president,” Trump said. “He lost and let us down,” he added, arguing he spent $1 million supporting McCain’s Oval Office bid.
“I’ve never liked him as much after that,” Trump added. “I don’t like losers.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) quickly rejected the business mogul’s remarks.
“Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than we can imagine – period,” said RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director Sean Spicer said in a statement.
“There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably,” he added.
Trump’s many rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination joined the RNC in discrediting his political legitimacy.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Trump should immediately mend fences with McCain over his remarks, or end his campaign.
“As an individual who has worn the uniform of this country, I was highly offended by what Donald Trump said about John McCain,” Perry said during his own 2015 Family Leadership Summit remarks.
“Donald Trump owes every American, and in particular John McCain, an apology,” he added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close friend of McCain’s, argued McCain and other prisoners of war like him deserve “recognition and respect” for their sacrifices.
“If you want to be commander-in-chief and you are serious about wanting that job, the last thing you’d do is disrespect the people in our armed services,” he said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush expressed disgust with Trump’s statements in a post on Twitter.
“Enough with the slanderous attacks,” he tweeted. “@SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was equally dismissive of Trump.
“America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump,” he wrote.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker vowed he would personally defend McCain’s tenure during the Vietnam War against any critics.
“@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero, period,” he said on Twitter. “I’ll denounce any attack against his service and anyone else who wears this uniform.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who considers himself a friend of both McCain and Trump, refused comment on the bitter feud.
“I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, so you want me to say something about Donald Trump or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “I’m not going to do it.”
“John McCain is a friend of mine,” Cruz added. “I respect and admire him and he’s an American hero. And Donald Trump is a friend of mine.”
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney noted the differences between McCain and Trump’s military backgrounds in his own pointed criticism on Twitter.
“The difference between @SenJohnMcCain and @realDonaldTrump: Trump shot himself down,” Romney wrote. “McCain and American veterans are true heroes.”
Megan McCain, John McCain’s daughter, expressed disbelief that Trump would insult her father’s sacrifices during the Vietnam War.
“I can’t believe what I am reading this morning,” she wrote on Twitter. “Horrified. Disgusted. There are no words.”
“I have a brother that just returned from Afghanistan a month ago, glad he can come home to this being said about his father and his service,” she added.
The Concerned Veterans of America (CVA) offered a comparison between McCain and Trump on military service in its own rebuke of the real estate mogul.
“Donald Trump’s attacks against Senator John McCain today are the height of arrogance and reveal that he has no understanding of what our Vietnam POWs endured and the honor they displayed during their captivity – Senator McCain among them,” the group said in a statement.
“A man who received four student deferments to avoid service in Vietnam has absolutely no credibility to attack someone like John McCain who volunteered to serve his country and suffered 5 1/2 years of torture as a result,” it said.
The military personnel organization took issue with Trump’s remarks over veterans affairs made during the same controversial speech.
“Donald Trump also revealed he has no idea what he is talking about in regards to reforming and fixing the VA,” it said.
“If he did, he would have known that Senator McCain has been a leader in fighting to give veterans more health care choices and to hold the VA accountable for its failures,” it added.
“Finally, this incident should clarify for veterans which leaders really understand the issues they face and the sacrifices they made as part of their military service. Unfortunately, it appears Donald Trump is not one of them.”
Later Saturday, as criticism was percolating, Trump sought to clarify his remarks, saying his problem with McCain stems from the senator’s policy stances.
"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," Trump said in a statement released by his campaign. 
"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 continued. "He is also allowing our military to decrease substantially in size and strength, somethings which should never be allowed to happen." 
Trump also accused McCain of being “extremely disrespectful” toward attendees of an immigration rally in Phoenix last weekend that was headlined by Trump.
"These were not 'crazies' --- these were great American citizens," he said. 
"I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren't captured and are also heroes," Trump added. 
"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!" 
Trump’s statement noted at the end: “Mr. Trump left to a long lasting standing ovation, which will be by far the biggest ovation of the weekend, and much congratulatory praise.”
Trump was taking issue with McCain’s critique of his July 11 rally against illegal immigration in Phoenix.
McCain argued in an interview published Thursday that the event energized the right wing’s most extreme members.
“It’s very bad,” he said of Trump’s Phoenix rally earlier this month.
“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful,” McCain added. “Because what he did was he fired up the crazies. Now he galvanized them. He’s really got them activated.”
Trump has retaliated by calling McCain a “dummy” and predicting he will lose his upcoming Senate primary in Arizona.
Trump on Saturday said McCain is insulting the Americans who support stronger policies against illegal immigration.
“15,000 people showed up to hear me speak,” Trump said of the Phoenix event, adding that it was “beautiful.”
“He called them all crazy,” he added of McCain. “I know all about crazies, and those weren’t crazies.”