WASHINGTON — Once again, Donald Trump isn’t backing down from comments that have inflamed the Republican presidential race. And some of his rivals are no longer treating him with kid gloves.
Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Rick Perry said Trump, with his latest bombast, has demonstrated he is not fit to be president.
At an Iowa candidate forum on Saturday, Trump dismissed Republican Sen. John McCain’s reputation as a war hero, saying the aviator was merely taken captive after being shot down in Vietnam and “I like people who weren’t captured.”
“I will say what I want to say,” Trump said Sunday, claimed a strong record of supporting veterans and accused McCain of failing them in Washington.
“I will do far more for veterans than John McCain has done for many, many years, with all talk no action,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.” “He’s on television all the time, talking, talking. Nothing gets done.”
A McCain spokesman has said the Arizona lawmaker would have no comment about Trump’s remarks.
Although unrepentant, Trump allowed after the Iowa event that McCain might be a hero after all, but said people who “fought hard and weren’t captured and went through a lot, they get no credit.” And he said Sunday about the Republican race: “I’m certainly not pulling out.”
McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, enduring torture. He stirred Trump’s anger last week when he said Trump’s comments about immigrants had “fired up the crazies” at a Phoenix rally.
Weeks ago, after Trump asserted that Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, Hispanic leaders were incensed not only about those remarks but about the slow and halting response from others seeking the GOP nomination. But the fallout from Trump’s latest salvo has spread quickly and indicates that at least some of his competitors are losing their inhibitions about repudiating him.
Rubio, a Florida senator, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump insulted all prisoners of war, not just McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee defeated by Barack Obama.
“He’s saying that somehow if you’re captured in battle you’re less worthy of honors,” Rubio said. “It’s not just absurd, it’s offensive. It’s ridiculous. And I do think it’s a disqualifier as commander in chief.” Rubio said as the campaign goes on and Trump commands attention, “it’s required people to be more forceful in some of these offensive things that he is saying.”
Perry, one of the few veterans running for president, said Trump has demonstrated he has neither the character nor the temperament for the White House. “Over the top,” the former Texas governor said of Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Really offensive.”
Jeb Bush, whose wife is from Mexico, took sharp offense at Trump’s earlier comments as others hedged. After Trump’s comments about McCain, the former Florida governor tweeted, “Enough with the slanderous attacks.”
But both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, while agreeing McCain is a genuine hero, sidestepped when asked if they condemned Trump’s remarks.