Wednesday 23 January 2019

McCain issues veiled criticism of Trump's Vietnam deferment

Mr McCain was a prisoner of war for six years in Vietnam (AP)
Mr McCain was a prisoner of war for six years in Vietnam (AP)

US senator John McCain has issued a veiled criticism of President Donald Trump's medical deferments which kept him from serving in the Vietnam War.

In an interview with C-SPAN last week, Mr McCain lamented that the military "drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur".

One of Mr Trump's five draft deferments came as a result of a physician's letter stating he suffered from bone spurs in his feet. Mr Trump's presidential campaign described the issue as a temporary problem.

Mr McCain spent six years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967.

Mr Trump derided Mr McCain's service in 2015, stating his fellow Republican was not a "war hero", and adding: "I like people who weren't captured."

When asked about the comment on Monday, Mr McCain's spokeswoman Julie Tarallo said the senator was referring to "one of the great injustices of the Vietnam conflict that led to a majority of poor, undereducated and minority draftees".

She added: "Senator McCain has long criticised the selective service programme during the Vietnam War, which left the fighting to the less privileged."

The tacit criticism from Mr McCain reflects the escalating row between Mr Trump and the 81-year-old Arizona senator, who is battling brain cancer and has a reputation for speaking his mind.

Last week, in a speech in Philadelphia, Mr McCain questioned "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in America's foreign policy.

Mr Trump responded by saying he would fight back, and "it won't be pretty".

That prompted Mr McCain to retort: "I have faced tougher adversaries."

The president also bemoaned Mr McCain's decisive vote this summer in opposition to a Republican bill to dismantle Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, a move which caused the failure of Republican efforts to repeal and replace so-called Obamacare.

The war of words between the president and Mr McCain marks the latest skirmish between the two Republican Party heavyweights, and another example of Mr Trump tangling with senators who could undermine his agenda in US congress.

Mr Trump in recent weeks has feuded with Tennessee senator Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, although the president joined with the Kentucky senator at the White House to publicly declare they were on the same page.

Mr McCain played a consequential role in the health care debate and will be lobbied heavily to support the president's push to overhaul the tax system.

During Mr Trump's presidency, Mr McCain has questioned the president's immigration policies and warned him against cosying up to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The senator also criticised the president in August for saying that both white nationalists and counter protesters were responsible for violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mr McCain insisted in a tweet that "there's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry", and the president should say so.

The senator underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2in blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with an aggressive tumour called a glioblastoma.

It is the same type of tumour that killed 77-year-old senator Edward M Kennedy in 2009, and Beau Biden, son of then-vice president Joe Biden, at the age of 46 in 2015.


Press Association

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