Oh well. On Saturday, July 18th he was being interviewed by Frank Luntz at the Family Leadership Summit. In the course of the interview Mr. Luntz referred to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as a “war hero.” It’s kind of a throwaway line as I think most of us view Senator McCain as a hero. He was a Navy pilot who was shot down in 1967 over North Vietnam. From then until 1973, when he was released, he endured horrific injuries, botched surgeries, near starvation, and torture. In 1968 the North Vietnamese offered to send him home but he refused to go unless all those who had been POW’s longer than him were also released. The North Vietnamese refused and he was a prisoner for another five years.
By any definition he was a hero. He was someone whose actions encourage others to serve and live with greater courage and distinction. Simply put, his actions made all of us better people.
Enter Donald Trump. For a full transcript of Mr. Trump’s remarks you can look here.
There’s enough offense here to go around but I want to focus on one line:
.. He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you that. He’s a war hero because he was captured, okay?
If Mr. Trump likes people who weren’t captured he’s telling us one of two things:
- He’s not a hero because heroes are those people who are smart enough or skilled enough to not get shot down. This is hard to stomach because it’s only the bravest enough among us to go that far into harm’s way. Senator McCain wasn’t shot down over friendly territory or even neutral territory. Hanoi was the capital of North Vietnam and there wasn’t a more dangerous place in the war. He stood tall in Hell.
- He’s not a hero because he surrendered. American POW’s were treated harshly in World War II because the Japanese believed that honorable soldiers would kill themselves before allowing themselves to be captured. Japanese captors believed that American POW’s were the “lowest of the low” because they were too cowardly to take the honorable route and commit suicide.
So this is an open question to Mr. Trump: If you believe Senator McCain isn’t a hero, is it because of reason #1 or reason #2?
By the way there’s an excellent article in today’s Washington Post. It gives a timeline of both Mr. Trump and Senator McCain from 1968 to 1973.
In fairness to Mr. Trump, while Senator McCain was being tortured by the North Vietnamese, Mr. Trump spent countless hours collecting rent from tenants in his apartments.