Donald Trump went after Sen. John McCain for being a war hero, continuing the Republican tradition of denigrating political opponents who served in the miliary.
Speaking at the Family Leadership Summit, Trump said, Mccain was “not a war hero” and added, “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
McCain, of course, was held in a Vietnamese prison camp for over five years.
But what Trump decided to do isn’t anything new for the right. Over the last 15 years, Republicans have gone after the records of their political opponents who have served in the military.
Republicans Like Attacking War Veterans
The most glaring example was John Kerry. During Kerry’s 2004 run for the presidency, conservatives and Republicans claimed he did not perform admirably in the firefight he was given a silver star, and during the 2004 Republican convention, convention attendees mocked Kerry’s purple hearts.
“Swift Boating” entered the national political lexicon thanks the multi-million dollar smear campaign orchestrated by Republican donors and operatives like Karl Rove against John Kerry’s war record. It wasn’t happenstance. It was all part of the plan.
Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee and decorated Vietnam veteran, lost his re-election campaign after now-Senator Saxby Chambliss ran ads showing Cleland next to Osama Bin Laden. At the time, Sen. McCain called the ads “reprehensible.”
Rep. Joe Walsh attacked the military service of Tammy Duckworth, also a military veteran who is an amputee. Duckworth lost her legs in Iraq when insurgents fired on a military helicopter. Walsh said she was not a “true hero.” He lost his race, and Duckworth won his seat.
This Is What They Do
Trump is not an outlier. He is a part of the conservative-Republican tradition of lashing out at the military service of his political opponents. In this instance, it may be friendly-fire because it was a Republican, but it isn’t something new.
UPDATE: In 2005, Jeb Bush sent a letter to the head of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth movement, thanking them for smearing John Kerry’s war record.
(h/t Peter Daou)
In 2012, Republicans booed a gay soldier after he asked a question at a debate: