Donald Trump left no doubts at Saturday's Iowa Family Leadership Summit: He was there to speak his mind on immigration, President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, and many other topics, politically correct or not.
He used the forum to escalate his feud with McCain, denying that the former prisoner of war should be considered a hero and referred to McCain as a 'loser."
"He’s not a war hero," Trump said. "He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured. ... Perhaps he is a war hero, but right now, he said some very bad things about a lot of people."
McCain was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War who was shot down and held for more than five years in North Vietnam's "Hanoi Hilton" prison, where he was repeatedly tortured.
Trump said he avoided service in the Vietnam War through at least 4 student and medical deferments, adding that he did not serve because he "was not a big fan of the Vietnam war. I wasn't a protester, but the Vietnam war was a disaster for our country."
Trump also referred to McCain as a '"loser."
McCain, said Trump, "is not so hot," and "I supported him for president. I raised $1 million for him. He lost, he let us down. He lost. I have never liked him as much after that."
He also refused to apologize for calling McCain "a dummy
" earlier this week for slamming his supporters, saying he doesn't think that his words are inappropriate from a person running for president.
"I'm in Phoenix, we have a meeting that is going to have 500 people," said Trump. "We get a call from the hotel. Turmoil. Thousands and thousands of people are showing up in three or four days. The hotel says, we cannot handle this.'"
Eventually 15,000 people showed up, said Trump, "wonderful, great Americans," and McCain "called them all crazy. They were not crazies. They were great Americans...I know all about crazies. He insulted me and he insulted everybody in that room."
A spokesman for McCain, Brian Rogers, said no comment when asked about Trumps remarks, the Associated Press reports.
Trump made it clear that he wouldn't pull his punches for anyone.
"We are so politically correct that we cannot move anymore," Trump told moderator Frank Luntz, who reminded the real estate magnate to watch his language he was using in front of the evangelical audience attending the Iowa event.
Reaction was swift as rivals who had thus far failed to take on Trump blasted the real estate mogul on Twitter. In an even more unusual move, the Republican National Committee weighed in with a statement condemning Trump.
RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director Sean Spicer released a statement hours later:
"Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period. There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”
His fellow candidates and the Republican National Committee quickly moved to isolate Trump for his attacks on McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee.
"His comments have reached a new low in American politics," said former Texas Governor Rick Perry in a statement calling for Trump to "apologize immediately."
"His attacks on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in- Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for president," added Perry, a former Air Force captain.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee managed to flash a sense of humor along with a well placed barb.
One Republican presidential candidate who has served in the military, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain's, also took to social media to say Trump shouldn't represent the party.
Although Trump's comments on McCain drew some boos, his tough talk and salty language — he said that doesn't think politicians "give a damn about education" and that the country is "going to hell" — throughout his talk got an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Trump didn't back down on anything he's done or said so far in his presidential campaign, including the statements he made in his announcement speech claiming that Mexico is sending criminals into the United States.
"I am so proud of the fact that I got the dialogue started on illegal immigration," Trump said. "People in the media, and all fairness, they were very rough on me in that first week and now many have apologized to me. It has turned out I was right. Someone in San Francisco was shot by an illegal with your five times a day couldn't do anything about it and now everybody is saying that Trump was right."
He also ridiculed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for saying she doesn't like Trump's tone.
"Tone?" he said. "The other day, Hillary Clinton got up and she said 'I don't like Mr. Trump's tone.' We have Christians having their heads cut off in the Middle East. We have people dying all over the border, that is where I was right, 100% right. We have all of this, like, medieval times. And she said, I didn't like his tone. You know who else said that? Jeb Bush."
With the event being religious in nature, Luntz asked Trump if he'd ever asked God for forgiveness, and Trump replied that many people are shocked when they hear he is a religious person.
"Norman Vincent Peale was my pastor," he said. "He was so great. He would give the sermon, and you never wanted to leave. Sometimes we had sermons and every once in while we think about leaving a little early, right," bringing laughs from the crowd.
But when Luntz asked Trump if he's ever asked God for forgiveness, he said he is not sure if he has, but if he does something wrong, "I think I just try to make it right. I don't bring God into that picture."
"When I go to church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness," said Trump. "I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. To me, that is important."
But as for absolutely saying he asks for forgiveness, Trump said he doesn't "think in terms of that. I think in terms of, let's go on and make it right."
Trump also refused to go on record as saying if he would not run as a third-party candidate should he not win the GOP nomination.
"This country has great potential, but we are being drained by incompetent leaders, by horrible people," said Trump, calling the recent deal with Iran "a total disaster."
"We are giving them billions of billions -- and billions of dollars that we shouldn't give them," said Trump. "We didn't get a hostages back because they didn't want to complicate."
And he acknowledged that as a businessman, he contributed "to Hillary Clinton, to Bill, to everybody. I was a businessman, why wouldn't I?"
Trump also talked about how his faith influenced how he raised his children, and said that he was a "better father than I was a husband," because he was always working.
"They were very good women, but I was always working," Trump said of his former wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples. I was working. I was creating jobs, building jobs, doing everything. legitimate stuff. I was working and it was very hard for a woman -- and I blame myself, I don't blame anybody else, but it was a work thing."
But with all of the successful people he knows, he said he finds the happiest people he knows are the ones who have great families.
"Religion is a very big factor, too," Trump said. "I have seen people that have a great family and the have god and the have church and they love their church. I have friends that love to go to their church. They are happy people."
But he turned away a question about whether he thinks Obama is a "moral president."
"Ask his wife, okay?" he told Luntz.
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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