President Trump may prefer war heroes who were not captured, as he infamously said of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2015, but McCain apparently prefers presidents who did not avoid serving in Vietnam because of bone spurs — a condition Trump says kept him out of the war after his college deferments ran out. In a C-SPAN interview about the Vietnam War broadcast Sunday night, McCain talked about the strategic failings of Vietnam and the social upheaval it unleashed in the U.S., then pointedly criticized economic disparities in the draft:
One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve. [McCain, on C-SPAN]
McCain did not mention Trump by name. And "plenty of wealthy Americans avoided being drafted into Vietnam," with bone spurs "a somewhat common reason for such deferments," Aaron Blake notes at The Washington Post. "But it would be a pretty big coincidence for McCain to bring up that particular ailment — especially in light of his regular criticisms of Trump and his clear allusion to Trump's 'half-baked spurious nationalism' in a speech two days before taping this interview."
That speech, delivered Monday night, was actually aimed more at Stephen Bannon than Trump, McCain's coauthor Mark Salter tells The New York Times. But Trump took it personally, responding in a radio interview: "People have to be careful, because at some point, I fight back. ... I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty." McCain laughed that off, telling reporters, "I have faced tougher adversaries."