Topic A: What they’re talking about today

(Prezography photo)

(Prezography photo)


The much anticipated Family Leadership Summit held in Ames over the weekend was expected to be the talk of politics, but it’s hard to imagine anyone expected the talk to be what it is right now. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, you know exactly what they’re talking about today.

Topic A LogoOne week prior to The Family Leader’s event, which featured 10 of the then-17 announced Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump was touring the country, talking about immigration. Among the places he spoke was Phoenix, AZ, where a 1,000-seat theater had to be replaced with a much larger arena at the last minute due to turnout. Nearly 15,000 people showed up to the event.

Asked afterward about the event in his home state, U.S. Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate himself, attacked Trump’s message, and then called those who turned out “a bunch of crazies.” He then suggested Trump and those who support him would severely damage the Republican Party. A back-and-forth between Trump and McCain via the mainstream media ensued, culminating in a question posed by Family Leadership Summit moderator Frank Luntz.

“Referring to a war hero, John McCain, who spent five and a half years as a POW, and you called him a dummy, how … ?” Luntz began to ask in the middle of Trump’s explanation. CLICK HERE to see video of the rest of the exchange.

The entire Q&A from the Family Leadership Summit can be seen below. The article continues after the video.

The media and other candidates, led by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who had been attacking Trump for weeks for his statements about immigration — immediately went on the attack, suggesting Trump had offended all veterans. Demands for apologies poured in from most of Trump’s opponents, who all maintained McCain was a war hero.

In reality, Trump’s comments echoed those of many veterans who have questioned the senator’s war hero narrative since he stymied the investigation of POW/MIA’s in Congress in the early 1990s. And, shortly after the event, Joel Arends, chairman of Veterans for a Strong America, issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump was recently extremely well received in Arizona while discussing national security and border security. Senator John McCain’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s success in Arizona is instructive in that it belies a concern the Senator clearly has about how his stance on issues like immigration are perceived by his constituents.

“The feuding between Mr. Trump and Senator McCain has nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s high regard for the military or veterans as a whole. Mr. Trump is supporter of the U.S. military and of America’s veterans. It is well known that when Mr. Trump is attacked by a detractor, he swings back. As veterans, we do not hide behind military service to deflect criticism, and when Senator McCain attacked, Mr. Trump hit back.

“We are glad that Mr. Trump has clarified his remarks to acknowledge that Senator McCain is a war hero. But, Senator McCain is also a politician and what Donald Trump has tapped into is that people just don’t trust politicians and the slow pace the Congress is moving in addressing critical issues like border security, veteran’s issues and military funding. Donald Trump has a history of calling out people and groups that don’t deliver results. There are clearly problems that are being identified by Donald Trump, that are not being adequately addressed by the political leadership in Congress and the Administration today.

“Phraseology aside, what the American people are really concerned about is how 250,000 veterans – who are also heroes – were put onto a VA death list, why 40,000 active troops are going to receive pink slips over the next four years and why border security is not addressed even as our porous border results in more financial strain on our country and southern border states’ budgets.”

A short time later, the Trump campaign released the following statement:

“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our Veterans and he should know better than anybody what the Veterans need, especially in regards to the VA. He is yet another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job and helping the Vets. He is also allowing our military to decrease substantially in size and strength, something which should never be allowed to happen.

“Furthermore, he was extremely disrespectful to the thousands upon thousands of people, many of whom happen to be his constituents, that came to listen to me speak about illegal immigration in Phoenix last week by calling them ‘crazies.’

“These were not “crazies”—these were great American citizens.

“I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.

“I want to strengthen our military and take care of our Veterans.  I want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN especially for those that serve to protect our freedom. I am fighting for our Veterans!”

Not long thereafter, award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson performed a fact check on the media coverage of the exchange between Luntz and Trump. In her estimation, the media engaged in misrepresentation and mischaracterization of the exchange, leaving out a key statement made by Trump. She gave the coverage “two little devils,” suggesting it wasn’t anywhere close to truthful.

“Obviously, all are free to draw conclusions about any candidate or politician,” she said. “But the news media has a responsibility to do its best to report accurately and fairly–even when reporters find a candidate and/or his positions to be personally distasteful.”

As the media and political pundits continued to hammer away at Trump, which has since overshadowed the great days had by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the campaign released a second statement.

“During my entire business career, I have always made supporting Veterans a top priority because our heroes deserve the very best for defending our freedom.

“My record of Veteran support is well-documented. I served as co-chairman of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission and was responsible, with a small group, for getting it built. Toward this end, I contributed over $1 million so our warriors can be honored in New York City with a proper memorial.

“I have always made sure our Veterans are treated with the respect they deserve. In 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of World War II, only 100 spectators watched New York City’s Veteran’s Day Parade. It was an insult to all veterans.  I was approached by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the chief of New York City’s FBI office. They asked me to lead as Grand Marshall for a second parade later that year. It was an honor.  I immediately made a $1 million dollar matching donation to finance the Nation’s Day Parade.  It was a tremendous success.  On Saturday, November 11th, over 1.4 million individuals watched as 25,000 veterans, some dressed in their vintage uniforms, marched down Fifth Avenue. It was one of the biggest parades in the history of New York City and I was very proud to have made it possible.

“One reason, among the many, that we need new leadership is that the politicians have failed our Veterans. Our VA hospitals are outdated dumps.  The current medical assistance to our Veterans is a disaster.  If I am elected President, I will build the finest and most modern Veterans hospitals in the world. A Trump administration will provide premium universal access healthcare for our Veterans. They will be able to get the best care anytime and anywhere.

“The ongoing scandal of the horrible things happening to our Veterans is a total disgrace. Thousands of lives have been taken by the incompetence and corruption going on in Veterans hospitals. Likewise, Veterans are living in misery and are treated as third class citizens.

“Two weeks ago, I pointed out the problem of illegal immigrants crossing our border and causing tremendous amounts of crime. Now, I have been able to focus the energies of our country on the horrible treatment that our Veterans are receiving. We must solve their difficulties — and solve them now. Politicians like John McCain have totally failed.

“Last week in Phoenix, I held a record breaking rally with thousands of people.  They are devastated by what is happening with illegal immigration. This group was totally united — the silent majority became alive.  These were fabulous people and great Americans but John McCain called them “crazies.” Everyone was very insulted by his disgusting and unfair characterization. A nation without borders is not a nation at all but John McCain has not been able to figure that out.

“Our leaders have failed to honor our country’s sacred duty to care for our veterans. This has to stop but it will not stop if we continue to depend on politicians who are controlled by the donors, lobbyists and special interests. Politicians are all talk and no action.

“I will continue to fight to secure our border and take care of our Veterans. I will never apologize or back down because these steps are vital to Make America Great Again!”

The immediate fallout from the exchange didn’t seem to hurt Trump. A campaign bus that is now following the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa — RAGBRAI to everyday Iowans — has been drawing big crowds. At its first stop in Sioux City on Saturday evening, a few hours after the Family Leadership Summit ended, the line at the bus stretched more than a block.