Arizona Sen. John McCain appeared to take a shot at President Trump in a recent interview about the Vietnam War by criticizing draft deferments granted disproportionately to the wealthy.
“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 level would get a doctor to say they had a bone spur,” McCain said during an interview that aired on C-SPAN 3 on Sunday.
“That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve,” McCain continued.
Trump received five deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War. Four were granted because Trump was in college. But the last deferment, in Fall 1968, was because Trump was diagnosed with a bone spur in the heel of his foot.
In contrast, McCain, a naval aviator, flew nearly two dozen missions during the Vietnam War. His final mission, in Oct. 1967, ended when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was held in North Vietnamese prisons until March 1973.
The Vietnam War has been invoked before in a long-simmering battle between Trump and McCain.
In July 2015, just after Trump declared his candidacy for president, Trump denied that McCain is a war hero.
“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Iowa.
McCain stepped back onto the rhetorical battlefield with Trump earlier this week, criticizing “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” McCain’s remarks, made during a speech in which McCain accepted the Liberty Medal, were seen as a repudiation of Trump.
Responding to McCain’s remarks the next day, Trump said in a radio interview that “people have to be careful because at some point I fight back.”
“I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won’t be pretty,” Trump told conservative radio host Chris Plante.
McCain made his thinly-veiled dig at Trump’s deferment in an interview the following day.