Donald Trump has come under serious fire from his own party after claiming that John McCain is not a war hero, then altering those comments, saying “he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” The rest of the GOP field instantly jumped to McCain’s defense and called on Trump to apologize, like that is something the man is even capable of. Instead Trump is doubling down.
But what if all Trump did was say what Republicans truly believe? Perhaps it’s a well-known, but not so-spoken fact that Republicans really don’t care about our war heroes. To highlight this, let me give a few examples.
John Kerry’s presidential aspirations in 2004 were quickly squashed by a group of Republicans known as the Swift Boaters. They attacked Kerry’s actions during Vietnam, for which he received two purple hearts. Through a serious of TV ads, this group rewrote history, trying to make Kerry into anything but a hero. It was one of the most disgusting moments in election history in this country. Jeb Bush, one of the current Republicans demanding Trump apologize, actually sent a thank you note to the swift boat group for helping his brother win re-election. You can read that letter from the then-Governor of Florida right here:
But a couple of years before Kerry we saw another case of Republicans using tasteless attacks on veterans, simply because they sit on the other side of the aisle. Max Cleland, former Democratic Senator from Georgia and a man who lost both legs and one arm in Vietnam was attacked by his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss for “breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution”. What kind of crime could this be? For simply voting for legislation that 54 other Senators voted for.
In the end Chambliss’ attack worked and Cleland instantly dropped in the polls, sending Chamliss to the Senate.
And how about a more current story? Tammy Duckworth lost both legs when an RPG hit a helicopter she was piloting in Iraq in 2004. How do Republicans show their support of this hero? Well Tea Party hero, Joe Walsh and Duckworth were in a heated campaign in 2011 to represent Illinois 8th congressional district. When things weren’t going Walsh’s way, he decided to take a typical Republican attack, going after Duckworth’s military service, declaring she is not a “real hero”. Not a real hero? That’s sad coming from a man who never had the nerve to even serve his country. Unlike Kerry and Cleland, the attack on Duckworth didn’t work and she went on to win.
But this is the problem. Republicans have no problem attacking the war record of anyone who has served this country. As matter of fact it has become the go-to tactic in their campaign playbook. For these candidates to sit out there and attack Trump, demanding he apologies, is clouded by their own acceptance of similar tactics being employed within their party just in the past 13 years. If they truly are upset over Trump’s comments, they they should also demand that Saxby Chambliss and Joe Walsh apologize. Oh and demand that Jeb Bush apologize for his supporting the Swift Boaters as well. Show the country you truly respect the people that had the nerve to put on the uniform by fixing all these wrongs your party has done in recent history. Of course I doubt that will happen, especially when out of 15 candidates, only two of the Republicans have even served.
So don’t let the Trump smoke screen fool you. Republicans very much believe in what he said and have applauded similar tactics over the years. They just don’t like Trump, so they will again use our veterans to try and make their own gains, by trying to force Trump out of the race. That is every bit as troubling as what Trump said about McCain.