Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo / AP
First Donald Trump questioned whether Sen. John McCain was truly a war hero.
he revealed to a South Carolina crowd the personal phone number of Sen.
Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), one of his rivals for the Republican
On Saturday Trump went for the hat
trick, gleefully insulting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker because one of
Walker’s fundraisers called the billionaire real estate mogul
I can attack!” Trump said at a packed rally at Oskaloosa High School.
“Wisconsin’s doing terribly. It’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster
because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing
money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus, and it turns out
to be a deficit of $2.2 billion.
The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education was a disaster. And he was totally in favor of Common Core!”
mention of the state-driven education standards – from which Walker,
like many Republican governors, has walked away – incited a prolonged
boo. That was not enough for Trump, who told a story about Walker giving
him a “beautiful plaque” out of gratitude for campaign donations and
wondered if “Wisconsin paid for it.”
Republicans’ hopes of
banishing Trump from their presidential primary may have wilted in the
heat of the Iowa summer. On his first visit to the caucus state since
the McCain insult, Trump drew a crowd of 1,300 in a city of 11,463. He
cleaned up his remarks about veterans, from the stage and in the crowd.
He talked with characteristic gusto about “killing in the polls and”
securing a spot in the party’s first sanctioned debate, scheduled for
“I’m going to be there,” Trump told reporters, “much to the chagrin of many people.”
did all of this at a four-hour spectacle – the Make America Great Again
Rally and Family Picnic – that felt like a New York cinematographer’s
idea of an “Iowa event.” A campaign bus stood unused until Trump posed
in front of his, giving a double thumbs-up before hopping into an SUV.
The outdoor barbecue was so large that Trump endorser Tana Goertz – who
had been a contestant on Trump’s NBC series, “The Apprentice” – asked
the crowd to gorge themselves a little more. “Mr. Trump can’t take all
this food home on the plane,” she said.
As they lined up for the
speech, conservative Iowans fell into two camps. One group adored
Trump’s brio, but wished he hadn’t gotten personal with McCain
(R-Ariz.). The larger camp egged Trump on for again refusing to play
nice. Although a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Trump’s ratings
slipping after his comments about McCain, the crowd in Oskaloosa saw
another reason to trust him. Some Republican voters, who had dutifully
turned out for “anti-establishment” candidates and been disappointed,
insisted that Trump was just the man to blow up the system.
dude’s badass, no question about it,” said Dave Moore, 30, a National
Guard veteran and welder. “Republicans keep sending chihuahuas to a
pitbull fight and being nice, and the only time they’re mean is to each
The McCain spat, Moore said, was an example of that.
“People applied that to all soldiers,” he said. “Trump was trying to
protect his people.”
That was Trump’s official line. In the seven
days since he suggested that merely being “captured” did not make
McCain a hero, Trump has alternately denied that he said it, talked up
his work for veterans, and said that he was only responding to McCain
for calling opponents of immigration reform “crazies.”
deployed all of those arguments here Saturday. One of his warm-up
speakers, 20-year Navy SEAL Brad Nagel, insisted that Trump respected
veterans, unlike “people who think we’re crazies.” (McCain had not been
referring to veterans.) Event staffers who found veterans in the crowd
handed them “Veterans for Trump” signs. Late into his 56-minute speech,
Trump beckoned to someone offstage, and a woman in a black dress
delivered a stack of paper wrapped in a red bow.
said, represented one day of “more than 700 letters from veterans,
thanking me.” They appreciate his charity, he said, and trust him to
reform Veterans Affairs, even though he did not serve.
“I might not have been a great soldier,” Trump said. “I don’t know. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.”
cleanup seemed to do the trick. Tammy Sparks, 54, came to the event
because she interpreted the comment as an insult to her father, a
prisoner of war during World War II.
“I heard he’d been saying
some bad stuff about prisoners of war, and I was so irritated,” Sparks
said. “One of the guys in suits explained it to me. And when Mr. Trump
saw me again, he said, ‘That was not what I meant.’?”
there was nothing to apologize for as far as McCain was concerned.
“He’s done nothing for veterans, nothing to secure our borders,” said
Randy Binns, who wore a hat and pin commemorating his service in the
1991 and 2003 Iraq invasions. “If he was running again, I’d tell him to
get out of town.”
In Oskaloosa, Trump told his main audience, of
700, about his Thursday visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. He told an
overflow audience that President Obama had failed POWs by winning Bowe
Bergdahl’s release from the Taliban but not getting Iran to turn over
He also won cheers for telling how he denied
credentials to the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, after
its editorial board called on him to quit the race. In a back-and-forth
with reporters, with the Register’s team kept outside his event, Trump
proved that he was comfortable being playful with the facts.
“I didn’t ban them,” he insisted. “They just couldn’t get credentials.”