By D. Allan Kerr
Let’s get this on the record – Donald J. Trump is a draft-dodging coward.
He had plenty of opportunities during the Vietnam War to join the ranks of the heroes he claims to admire, starting when he turned 18 and first became eligible for the draft in 1964. Instead he proceeded to obtain several student deferments over the next few years.
After graduating from college in 1968, he was no longer eligible for student status – so he got a medical deferment attributed to bone spurs. His 2016 presidential campaign acknowledged this was expected to be a short-term condition.
The United States didn’t withdraw from the war until 1973, but Trump never sought fit to join up. He was in his physical prime during these war years, between the ages of 18 and 27, and brags of being a great athlete in his younger days.
He apparently enjoyed playing toy soldier at the New York Military Academy private boarding school.
But dressing in uniform for real? No, that wasn’t for him.
He has acknowledged in the past he sometimes feels “a little guilty” about not serving his country during Vietnam.
There may be something more, however, behind his animosity toward war hero John McCain.
The daughters of a deceased New York doctor claimed last year their father gave Trump the bone-spur letter as a favor to Trump’s father, who was the doctor’s landlord.
Now, in the wake of Trump’s latest rants, former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey – a Medal of Honor winner who lost part of his leg in Vietnam – is calling on Trump to share X-rays proving he actually had this condition.
Certain people had a problem with Bill Clinton for his efforts to avoid military service during Vietnam, but ultimately both he and Trump simply took advantage of opportunities available to them.
Meanwhile, it was left to guys like McCain to fill the void in the armed forces for these daintier lads.
McCain volunteered to serve his country as a naval aviator, then he volunteered to serve in combat in Vietnam. He was tortured and placed in solitary confinement during his time as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973.
Trump, between those same years, worked for his dad’s multi-million-dollar real estate business, and in 1971 his dad promoted him to president.
You could say McCain, the son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals, also followed into the family business, but didn’t get quite the same perks.
If anything, Trump should have been thanking McCain these past four decades for serving the country so pampered sons of privilege like himself could enjoy the soft comforts of home.
Or as Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson said this week, “Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us.”
Instead, Trump has been rather ungracious toward the dead senator.
His 2015 claim McCain was “a war hero because he was captured – I like people who weren’t captured” was the moment I realized just how unfit Trump was to serve as commander in chief. Not only because he was stupid enough to say it, but because he lacked the grace to apologize.
His obsession has only escalated over time, and I have no doubt the near-beatification bestowed on the battle-scarred old warrior after his passing last year absolutely drove Trump nuts.
And with his rambling comments over the past week, Baby Huey seems just about ready to enter Looney Town.
Trump even attempted to take credit for a veterans’ health bill sponsored by McCain and signed into law by Obama two years before Trump was elected president.
McCain’s daughter Meaghan is dead-on when she describes her dad as Trump’s “kryptonite,” saying McCain is in Trump’s head because the reality TV host is very much aware he doesn’t measure up.
But no one loves veterans more than a callous politician who never donned the uniform himself, and Trump has made a point of literally wrapping himself in the American flag at every opportunity.
He praises the military in public – as long as he isn’t challenged. Then he has no reservations trying to demean men whose boots he couldn’t carry.
For his part, although he was far more erudite about it, McCain didn’t have much love for Trump either. It’s pretty clear who he meant when he famously mocked spoiled rich boys who “found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. If we’re going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
Trump is trying to trash McCain’s legacy for the senator’s role in providing the notorious “Steele Dossier” to the FBI. Frankly, I’m not sure what else McCain could have done with this information – if he hadn’t passed it on he would have been accused of a coverup.
McCain certainly made no secret about it, describing the episode in his excellent last book, “The Restless Wave.” With the typical candor I always loved about the guy, McCain wrote he would do it again and added, “Anyone who doesn’t like it can go to hell.”
What Trump still fails to understand is McCain was a hero because he went into harm’s way in the first place – not because he had to, but because he thought his country was worth the sacrifice. He’s a hero because he endured a hell most of us can’t imagine, and somehow returned home a stronger man.
And personally, I like people who have the guts to join the fight in the first place.
(March 24, 2019)