In an interview with C-SPAN about the Vietnam War that ran over the weekend, Sen. John McCain said this:
“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
While McCain didn’t mention any names, anyone paying any sort of attention knows that he is talking about President Donald Trump, who received five deferments during the Vietnam War, including one for – you guessed it! – bone spurs.
Trump, despite being in generally good health at the time, received a diagnosis of bone spurs, which gave him a draft status that kept him out of the war. In an interview with The New York Times about the deferment, Trump was unable to remember the name of the doctor who had diagnosed him but noted: “I had a doctor that gave me a letter – a very strong letter on the heels.” He added that the problem was “temporary” and “minor.” (Trump received four further education deferments.)
The “bone spur” shot is McCain’s latest jab at Trump in a decidedly tempestuous relationship that dates back to at least 2015.
It was in July of that year that Trump, appearing at a conservative conclave in Iowa, said this of the Arizona Republican: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain spent almost six years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, where he was tortured and beaten. He suffered injuries that don’t allow him to raise his arms above shoulder height.
Days later, asked whether he owed McCain an apology, Trump said, “No, not at all.” He added, “People that fought hard and weren’t captured and went through a lot, they get no credit. Nobody even talks about them. They’re, like, forgotten. And I think that’s a shame, if you want to know the truth.”
Trump’s tone changed on McCain over the summer of 2017 when the Arizona senator, shortly after being diagnosed with brain cancer, returned to Washington to participate in the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
“So great that John McCain is coming back to vote,” Trump tweeted. “Brave - American hero! Thank you John.”
That praise was short-lived, however, as McCain wound up casting the deciding vote against the Trump-backed repeal and replace plan.
“John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves,” Trump tweeted in the wake of that vote. “He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!”
He added, “Democrats are laughingly saying that McCain had a ‘moment of courage.’ Tell that to the people of Arizona who were deceived. 116% increase!”
In an interview with “60 Minutes” last month, McCain insisted his vote against the health care bill wasn’t revenge against Trump for the comments about his war service.
“If I took offense at everybody who has said something about me or disparaged me or something like that – life is too short,” McCain said. “You’ve got to move on. And on an issue of this importance to the nation, for me to worry about a personal relationship, then I’m not doing my job.”
But McCain did note in that same interview that Trump had never apologized for the “I like people who weren’t captured” line. And he made very clear that he doesn’t hold a ton of respect for the life Trump has lived. Here’s the key quote:
“He is in the business of making money, and he has been successful both in television as well as Miss America and others. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.” (Trump actually used to own the Miss Universe Organization.)
McCain can say what he wants about how his decisions regarding Trump are entirely unaffected by what Trump has said about him or the differences between the two paths the two men have taken in their lives. But it’s clear there’s not love lost between the two men.