President Donald Trump cited the Veterans Choice health care program on Thursday as evidence that he has done more for veterans than the late Sen. John McCain.
There are two big problems here.
One: Choice was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014.
Two: It was McCain’s bill.
McCain, a Navy veteran who was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War, was a lead author of the bipartisan legislation – putting it together with Sen. Bernie Sanders, another frequent target of Trump criticism.
Trump has lied more than 150 times that he is responsible for getting the Choice program created. It’s an especially egregious bit of deception, though, when he takes credit for McCain’s own initiative to argue he has been superior to McCain. When he did the same thing in 2019, we called it one of his 12 most notable lies of the year.
Trump made his latest comments about McCain while denying a report in The Atlantic magazine that alleged he had made various disparaging remarks about US soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured. The report said he had called McCain a “loser” after McCain died in 2018 and had expressed opposition to lowering flags to half-staff in McCain’s honor.
In Trump’s denial, he said on Twitter and to the media that he had not made these remarks – although, he added, he thinks McCain was less successful than he has been in taking care of veterans.
“I disagreed with him with respect to the vets and the taking care of the VA. I wanted to do it a much different way, and I think it’s proven to be a much more successful way when you look at the success we’ve had with the VA and with our vets – with Choice and with Accountability, all the things I’ve got,” he said after disembarking Air Force One after a trip to Pennsylvania.
Again, Choice – which allowed certain veterans to be covered by the government for receiving care from doctors outside the VA health system – is not something Trump “got.” What Trump actually signed was the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which modified and expanded the private-care program created by the Choice bill.
The full name of the VA MISSION Act honors McCain: it is the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018.
Trump made at least one other false claim in his denial: he said he had “never” called McCain a loser. In fact, he did so at a 2015 event in Iowa, on camera – saying of McCain’s defeat in the 2008 presidential election, “I never liked him as much after that, because I don’t like losers.”
Later the same day, he tweeted out an article that was headlined, “Donald Trump: John McCain Is ‘A Loser.’”