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“I Like People That Weren’t Captured, OK?”: Trump Takes The Wrong Message To The Wrong Crowd In The Wrong Way

For those unfamiliar with the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally, the point of the annual gathering is to raise awareness of prisoners of war and American servicemen and women missing in action. If you tried to find the most out-of-place individual imaginable for this rally, you could do worse than pointing to a New York billionaire who avoided military service and who’s publicly mocked POWs, saying last year, “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

And yet, take a wild guess which high-profile speaker graced Rolling Thunder with his presence this holiday weekend?

Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation’s military veterans, without backing up his allegation.

“Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore,” Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.

The assertion that veterans often receive worse care than undocumented immigrants is demonstrably ridiculous, though that’s never stopped Trump before.

The presumptive Republican nominee was also apparently disappointed with the crowd size – organizers estimated about 5,000 people were in attendance – arguing that there were 600,000 people who wanted to hear his speech but weren’t allowed in.

Trump complained, “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don’t allow ‘em to come in,” without explaining who “they” are or where these 600,000 people were hiding.

Of course, the more Trump avoids King references when talking about his speeches, the better.

Regardless, think about the chutzpah it took for the Republican candidate to claim credibility of the subject of veterans in the first place.

Even if Trumps’ mockery of POWs wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s plan to privatize veterans’ care wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s avoiding military service during the Vietnam war wasn’t enough to keep him away, there’s also the fact that Trump and his campaign got caught lying about his financial support for veterans’ charities.

This happened, by the way, literally last week – just days ahead of his remarks to an audience committed to raising awareness about a group of veterans.

The GOP candidate might have been disappointed the crowd wasn’t larger, but Trump’s lucky those who were in attendance didn’t just laugh in his face.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, POW/MIA, Veterans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“McCain Just Can’t Seem To Help Himself”: One Of These Days, The Beltway Will Stop Looking To McCain As An Expert

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran into a little trouble last week. The Republican senator, a little too eager to condemn the Obama White House, complained about the prisoner swap that freed an American POW despite having already endorsed the exact same plan a few months prior. After getting caught, McCain falsely accused his critics of “lying.”

Making matters slightly worse, the Arizona lawmaker, himself a former POW, complained to the media that he hadn’t learned anything from a classified briefing on Bowe Bergdahl’s release, neglecting to mention that he’d left in the middle of it.

Despite – or perhaps, because of – these embarrassments, McCain scored another Sunday-show invitation, where he somehow managed to add insult to injury.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the five Guantanamo detainees released in a prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “hardcore military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11” and said he expects them to return to fighting against the U.S.

In context, looking at the full transcript, it’s hard to say whether McCain believes these five detainees were “responsible for 9/11” or whether he believes all of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were “responsible for 9/11,” but either way, the senator is plainly wrong.

McCain added, in reference to the Bergdahl prisoner-swap, “I wouldn’t release these men, not these men. They were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release.”

That’s wrong, too. In fact, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay told msnbc’s Alex Witt over the weekend that at first he didn’t even recognize these detainees’ names. “To trade five of them for a U.S. service member, in my estimation, and I’m often critical of President [Barack] Obama, I think they struck a pretty good deal,” retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis said.

What’s more, just a few months ago, McCain personally endorsed the plan to transfer these exact same Taliban prisoners. When he says he wouldn’t have completed the swap for “these men,” he’s neglecting to mention that he’d already expressed public support for swapping “these men.”

And all of this led to the creme de la crème:

“I believe that there are other prisoners, some of whom we have already released, that we could have released that – in exchange,” McCain argued.

If someone could explain what this means, I’d appreciate it. Putting aside the fact that McCain already endorsed the plan to swap these exact same prisoners before he changed his mind and denied changing his mind, it’s not at all clear how U.S. officials could have swapped prisoners “whom we have already released.”

It’s tempting to think that, one of these days, the Beltway will stop looking to McCain as an expert on matters related to national security and the military, but I’ve been waiting for that day for quite a while. It never seems to arrive.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 9, 2014

June 10, 2014 Posted by | John McCain, National Security, POW/MIA | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tantrums Don’t Change The Facts”: McCain Rejects Evidence, Accuses Critics Of ‘Lying’

Republican reversals on securing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have been jaw-dropping for much of the week. As we discussed yesterday, Republicans were happy about an American POW coming home; then they changed their minds. Republicans endorsed the prisoner swap itself; then they changed their minds. Republicans extended their thoughts and prayers to Bergdahl and his family; then they changed their minds. Republicans demanded that the Obama administration had a responsibility to do everything humanly possible to free this POW from his captors; then they changed their minds.

But perhaps no one has been quite as brazen in the flip-flop department as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who’s still treated as a credible figure on matters related to foreign policy and the military, despite his poor track record. The Arizona Republican expressed public support for the prisoner-swap, then did a 180-degree turn after President Obama pursued the course McCain endorsed.

Apparently, the senator is angry that his shameless flip-flop has been noticed.

“The details are unacceptable and for anyone to accuse me, therefore, of saying that I’d support any prisoner swap under any circumstances is lying,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“And the details are outrageous. They went to Qatar, where the Taliban has an office, and in a year they are going to be out and the deal is, like any other agreement, as I said, in the details,” McCain said on CNN, explaining his opposition to the swap. “I mean, it’s just totally unacceptable. These people would be back in the fight.”

It’s hard to know if McCain actually believes what he’s saying. Indeed, the senator has never been detail-oriented, so perhaps he doesn’t fully understand the nature of the recent criticism.

But in reality, as the New York Times’ editorial board noted today, McCain “switched positions for maximum political advantage” – as he’s done “so often in the past.”

The lawmaker can throw around words like “lying” if he chooses, but a closer look at the facts lead to only one conclusion.

As far back as 2011, the Obama administration was in talks with the Taliban about securing Bergdahl’s release, in exchange for five specific detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who would then be transferred to Qatar. Members of Congress, including McCain, were aware of these talks and knew exactly which five Taliban prisoners would be included in the prisoner-swap.

In 2012, McCain was asked about this during a national television interview. Though he said he’d need all of the details, the senator said he “would support” the exchange.

And then the Obama administration made the exchange, at which point McCain condemned the exact same policy he’d already endorsed.

Indeed, perhaps unaware his own position, McCain has been quite unconstrained in denouncing the swap he used to support, calling it “outrageous” and “unacceptable.” At a classified briefing yesterday, the senator reportedly “walked out shortly after shouting at an official.”

Tantrums don’t change the facts.

What surprises me is McCain’s willingness to keep digging. His audacious reversal was uncovered on Tuesday, at which point the senator could have laid low so as to not draw attention to his shameless, knee-jerk opposition to an idea he supported. Indeed, I had no intention of returning to the subject, since it was so obvious that the Arizona Republican had contradicted himself.

But McCain can’t seem to help himself. Caught in a shameless reversal, he feels the need to lash out, making matters worse for no reason.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 6, 2014

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, John McCain, POW/MIA | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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