The Donald Battles the Establishment - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Donald Battles the Establishment

John McCain is a war hero. Period.

Unless, of course, he’s a threat to Democrats and Barack Obama — as he was in September of 2008 as the Republican nominee for president. Then the man whose honor is suddenly being defended by outraged Establishment figures from both parties and the media was no longer a war hero. No, back there in the fall of 2008 McCain was being savaged as a mean SOB with an uncontrollable temper — a man who threatened to physically strike a wheelchair-bound, oxygen-dependent mother of a missing Vietnam serviceman. When he wasn’t busy causing another woman to be slammed into a wall. And that’s all well aside from using a Senate hearing to torment a third woman — a witness for the families of missing servicemen — with such open prosecutorial-style contempt that the woman was reduced to tears.

Are the elites of both parties and the media determined to elect Donald Trump President of the United States? Apparently so. Because as the American people watch Trump’s treatment both before and since his tangle with McCain — the latter beginning the fight by calling the thousands of Arizonans who showed up for a Trump rally in Phoenix “crazies” — they know the politics of personal destruction when they see it. “Crazies” not so coincidentally an interesting term considering that only seven years ago that is exactly the way the media was trying to portray McCain himself.

Let’s start here with the facts. I know, I know, facts are irrelevant when the Establishment wants to destroy somebody, but let’s get them out there anyway.

Investigative reporter Sharyl Atkisson, formerly of CBS News, has put together a concise analysis of Trump’s remarks on McCain that launched this latest barrage from suddenly offended Establishment types. Writes Atkisson of the coverage of the dust-up by the Washington Post, in part:

When a panelist characterized McCain as a “war hero,” the Post is accurate in reporting that Trump initially said McCain is “not a war hero.” But then, Trump immediately modified his statement saying — four times — that McCain is a war hero:

“He is a war hero.”

“He’s a war hero because he was captured.”

“He’s a war hero, because he was captured.”

“I believe, perhaps, he’s a war hero. But right now, he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.”

So. John McCain is a war hero. As Atkisson documents, Donald Trump said so. Four times.

But you can’t have an anti-Trump firestorm if you tell the truth. So the story is quickly told to the public — untruthfully. Over and over again. Trump’s Republican opponents, doing themselves no favor in the integrity department, quickly join the fray. 

Which brings us to those stories about McCain’s temper from the fall of 2008. This one in particular, published by the McClatchy DC news service on September 7, 2008, when McCain is the newly minted Republican nominee for president. Headlined the story: 

McCain’s history of hot temper raises concerns

The story reads in part (bold print for emphasis mine):

Back in Washington, families of POW-MIAs said they have seen McCain’s wrath repeatedly. Some families charged that McCain hadn’t been aggressive enough about pursuing their lost relatives and has been reluctant to release relevant documents. McCain himself was a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War.

In 1992, McCain sparred with Dolores Alfond, the chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen and Women, at a Senate hearing. McCain’s prosecutor-like questioning of Alfond — available on YouTube — left her in tears.

Four years later, at her group’s Washington conference, about 25 members went to a Senate office building, hoping to meet with McCain. As they stood in the hall, McCain and an aide walked by.

Six people present have written statements describing what they saw. According to the accounts, McCain waved his hand to shoo away Jeannette Jenkins, whose cousin was last seen in South Vietnam in 1970, causing her to hit a wall.

As McCain continued walking, Jane Duke Gaylor, the mother of another missing serviceman, approached the senator. Gaylor, in a wheelchair equipped with portable oxygen, stretched her arms toward McCain.

“McCain stopped, glared at her, raised his left arm ready to strike her, composed himself and pushed the wheelchair away from him,” according to Eleanor Apodaca, the sister of an Air Force captain missing since 1967.

McCain’s staff wouldn’t respond to requests for comment about specific incidents.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Trump opponent trailing badly in the polls, has now quickly gone after Trump by deliberately misrepresenting what Trump actually said. Said Perry: 

“Donald Trump should apologize immediately for attacking Senator McCain and all veterans who have protected and served our country. As a veteran and an American, I respect Sen. McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump. His comments have reached a new low in American politics. His attack 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.” 

At the time the McClatchy story was published I can find no stories reporting that then-Texas Governor Perry found McCain’s behavior in threatening to physically assault a wheelchair-bound mother of a missing service man as, in Perry’s words about Trump, making McCain “unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces” and no stories that had Perry demanding McCain “withdraw from the race for President.”

In other words? This whole episode is just another Establishment media game designed to politically take out a perceived threat.

Just as the media and Establishment figures in both parties deliberately misrepresent Trump’s views on illegal immigration by changing his meaning from “illegal immigrants’ to “Mexican immigrants,” his views on McCain are now being deliberately misrepresented. The irony here being that when McCain himself was the actual GOP nominee for president? In the blink of an eye the man once praised as a “maverick” by the media was suddenly presented to the American people as a hot-tempered, abusive man, an out-and-out bully who had no problem threatening to strike a wheelchair-bound woman. And yes, to this day McCain’s commitment to American servicemen who went missing in Vietnam is questioned as well, as seen here in this You Tube-preserved gem filled with anti-McCain comments from former House and Senate colleagues as well as POW/MIA activists. 

The notably cool sentiments toward McCain from some veterans is further seen in a statement from the Veterans for a Strong America supporting Trump. That statement from VSA chairman Joel Arends reads in part:

Donald Trump was recently extremely well received in Arizona while discussing national security and border security. Senator John McCain’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s success in Arizona is instructive in that it belies a concern the Senator clearly has about how his stance on issues like immigration are perceived by his constituents.

The feuding between Mr. Trump and Senator McCain has nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s high regard for the military or veterans as a whole.

Mr. Trump is supporter of the U.S. military and of America’s veterans. It is well known that when Mr. Trump is attacked by a detractor, he swings back. As veterans, we do not hide behind military service to deflect criticism, and when Senator McCain attacked, Mr. Trump hit back.

We are glad that Mr. Trump has clarified his remarks to acknowledge that Senator McCain is a war hero. But, Senator McCain is also a politician and what Donald Trump has tapped into is that people just don’t trust politicians and the slow pace the Congress is moving in addressing critical issues like border security, veteran’s issues and military funding.

There are clearly problems that are being identified by Donald Trump, that are not being adequately addressed by the political leadership in Congress and the Administration today.

In an instant, Trump has now managed to put the treatment of veterans on the front burner. And the fact that the scandal surrounding the Veteran’s Administration’s mistreatment of veterans involves the Phoenix VA — as it were right in McCain’s backyard and McCain was apparently clueless? This only underlines Trump’s larger point that the U.S. government is in the hands of feckless politicians who are simply incompetent — whether the issue is illegal immigration, the treatment of veterans by the VA or any number of other issues. 

So the question? Why? Why is it that Donald Trump has accomplished the seemingly impossible? Why is he uniting the Establishments of the Republican and Democratic parties plus the media in vehement opposition to his candidacy — while at the same time surging to the top of the polls?

Not to put too fine a point on this, but millions of Americans understand in their gut that Washington, D.C. and the political class have become a virtual sewer of insider corruption. The old “what’s in it for me and how do I keep it that way?” game. 

The real truth here is that the Establishment is scared witless by Donald Trump. And as millions of Americans watch the way Trump is being attacked — with his businesses being savaged, his views completely and deliberately misrepresented with his opponents not only lying about his record but, by their silence at McCain’s own misbehavior as documented in 2008, convicting themselves of utter hypocrisy.

Is John McCain a war hero? Yes. 

But sadly over time John McCain has evolved into something quite different from any kind of a hero. That would be a man who long ago ceased his maverick ways to carry the water of the Inside the Beltway political class. Having failed to beat them — he joined them. 

And there is nothing heroic about that.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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