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John McCain: Trump Owes Apologies to POWs, Not to Me

Monday, 20 Jul 2015 08:32 AM

Image: John McCain: Trump Owes Apologies to POWs, Not to Me
Sen. John McCain, responding to comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump that his being captured in Vietnam supposedly sullied his service, said Monday that Trump did not owe him an apology.

"No, I don't think so," McCain responded on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if Trump owes him an apology. "But I do think he owes an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience, who served their country honorably."

"I'm in the arena as T.R. used to say," McCain continued. "But in the case of many of our veterans, when Mr. Trump said he prefers those people who have not been captured, a great honor of my life was to serve in the company of heroes. I'm not a hero."

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Trump has been under fire from the large GOP field — with the notable exception of Ted Cruz — after saying on Saturday in Iowa that McCain is "not a war hero" and a "loser." McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years.

Trump's criticism was sparked by McCain's criticism of people who support Trump's position against illegal immigration. He called them "crazies."

The Republican National Committee criticized Trump for what he said about McCain, but Trump noted in a USA Today piece published Sunday night that "no one in the news media or the establishment, including the Republican National Committee, criticized" McCain's original comments against the Trump supporters.

McCain spoke about the commanders who led the POWs in the Hanoi Hilton, the infamous prison where he was held. McCain said it was those ranking officers who inspired him to survive during his ordeal.

"Those who were my senior ranking officers... those were the ones who inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn't have been capable of doing. Those are the people I think he owes an apology to."

McCain, a Naval aviator, was shot down in 1967 over North Vietnam and fractured both arms and legs after being ejected from his aircraft. He was repeatedly tortured during his stay — and refused early release when the North Vietnamese learned his father was a Navy admiral — until he finally returned home in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords.

The Arizona senator, who has limited mobility in his arms following his war experience, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his service.

Trump, meanwhile, received several deferments during the war. According to The Smoking Gun, which obtained selective service records for Trump in 2011, he received four student deferments between 1964 and 1968, and later a medical deferment in 1968.

"For me to look back in anger at anyone is nonproductive," McCain said. "And our country was divided in an almost unprecedented fashion during the Vietnam War, and when I came home I was shocked. So I've worked ever since to try to heal those wounds."

McCain isn't calling for Trump to drop out of the campaign for the 2016 GOP nomination.

"I think that's a decision that he would have to make," McCain said. "Again, what I think [he] should do is apologize to the families and those who have served... those are the people he should apologize to."

Further, McCain said, veterans are "not happy" about Trump's comments.

"I can assure you that if you talk to our veterans, and I've had a flood of calls from our veterans," said McCain. "They are not happy."

McCain said he is not resentful that Trump, who did not serve in Vietnam after he was determined exempt from the draft, made the comments to criticize him.

"I think you are old enough to remember the controversies and the wounds of the Vietnam war," McCain told MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. "It may be the only war that you and I ever knew much about where the veterans were not welcomed home. And that's why I work so hard on the normalization of relations between our countries, a full accounting for those missing in action. In other words, put this behind us and move forward. Now we have a good relationship with Vietnam."

And as for Trump?

"I put all that behind me," said McCain. "For me to look back in anger at anyone is nonproductive and our country is — was — divided in an almost unprecedented fashion during the Vietnam War. When I came home, I was shocked. I worked ever since to heal those wounds."

And while Trump said he made the comments because of McCain's "terrible" record with veterans, the Arizona senator pointed out that he does "everything I can to help them."

"As you know, [there are] major scandals going on" he said. "I had two pieces of legislation to try that issue. Best thing to do is put it behind us and move forward and just express our gratitude to those who have served and sacrificed."

The real heroes, though, are "the 55,000 names that are down on the wall engraved in black granite that I stop by sometimes early in the morning and when the sun is going down."

He said he also spent Independence Day with men and women serving in Afghanistan, "and I can tell you they are just wonderful. Better than my generation."

As to Trump's outrage at calling his supporters "crazies," McCain joked that in his "very dynamic and divisive state," he has "hundreds of town hall meetings in Arizona and I'm called crazy. I thought it was a term of endearment."

But he told MSNBC correspondent Willie Geist that he is not going to apologize for that, he said, because he meant what he said, because "I love my people and so I meant it in a way, in a term of affection, to be honest with you."



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Sen. John McCain, responding to comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump that his being captured in Vietnam supposedly sullied his service, said Monday the Trump did not owe him an apology. "No, I don't think so," McCain responded on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked...
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