McCain defends Vietnam vets after Trump attack

McCain defends Vietnam vets after Trump attack
© Getty Images

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday compared Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE's criticism of his war record to the treatment that Vietnam veterans received when they first returned home.  

"I do not want to reopen the wounds of the war," McCain said during a discussion on foreign policy Tuesday at the Hudson Institute. 

"I want us to celebrate our veterans, to move forward, and those who may have opposed the war, or those who may have whatever it is — it's over, and our Vietnam Veterans deserve not to have this fight begin again," he said. 


Trump said last weekend during a campaign stop in Iowa that McCain, a former prisoner of war, was "not a hero" and that he preferred those "who weren't captured," prompting a backlash from Republicans and veteran groups. 

Trump's comments came after a series of insults against the Arizona senator, who had intially said that Trump had fired up the "crazies" at a recent rally in Phoenix.

McCain recalled coming home from the war after "spending a long time away from home," and said he was surprised by the divisiveness of the war, and the failure to welcome home Vietnam veterans. 

"And that was a problem for a lot of our veterans, the 18-, 19-year-old draftees, who answered their country's call and came back and were not well-treated," he said. 

"And so I made it my goal over the years to do what I could to help our Vietnam veterans and to give them the same status that they had given the [prisoners of war]. And I think to a large degree we've achieved that," he said. 

Trump has defended his remarks, saying he had said McCain was a hero and that the media was distorting his remarks, but then argued in an op-ed that he Arizona senator has "abandoned" veterans and not done enough for them. 

Other Republican presidential candidates and prominent veterans groups have jumped on Trump's remarks, calling for an apology and defending McCain's record.

"No matter how this present controversy plays out, I'd like to make sure that whatever happens, we maintain the respect and affection and appreciation for those who served a long time ago," McCain said.