He attacked former Secretary of State John Kerry for his approach to diplomacy, and for some reason brought up his participation in a bicycle race “where he fell and broke his leg.”
Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, along with a Silver Star Medal and a Bronze Star Medal. He commanded a Swift Boat that repeatedly came under enemy fire.
Trump also lashed out at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), though he wasn’t brave enough to do so by name. He complained about McCain’s vote last year that blocked congressional Republicans’ attempt to undo Obamacare.
“We got a bad vote the evening that we were going to terminated Obamacare, we got a bad vote, you know about that, right? That was not a nice thing,” Trump said.
McCain was held as a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam from 1967 to 1973. During that time, he was subjected to torture.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump denigrated this service, insisting that McCain was not a war hero.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” he said at the time.
During his NRA speech, Trump directed his greatest vitriol at special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Mueller served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. In that time he earned a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for heroism, along with a Purple Heart.
Trump again moaned about “this phony Russian witch hunt,” and read at length from a news article reporting on a judge who had a disagreement with how Mueller has been prosecuting former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Trump described Manafort, who is indicted on several counts, as “a good person.”
Trump has repeatedly targeted the military for attack: trying to cut services to veterans and pushing the privatization of their health care. He has often neglected to recognize fallen service members. Last June, for example, when two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, he spent the day at his golf course.
During a visit to the Air National Guard base in Pennsylvania, he refused to stop for a moment to honor fallen soldiers, laughing and joking his way through the solemn “Retreat” bugle call.
The man who repeatedly dodged the draft in Vietnam, infamously claiming “bone spurs” prevented him from serving, loves to wrap himself in the flag when it suits him.
But his treatment and disdain for service members and veterans was on full display at the NRA speech Friday. For Trump, it wasn’t a deviation. It is what he does.