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Friday, July 23rd, 2015

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There is no politically correct way to explain it. Donald Trump blew his chance in a big way. He seemed to be on a roll, rising in the presidential preference polls and talking about issues other Republican candidates were ducking. Here in Louisiana, he hit a responsive cord when few other presidential wanabes had the gumption to show any backbone, particularly on curtailing illegal immigration. But then, his mouth got in the way.

Trump had the audacity to challenge Arizona Senator John McCain’s stature as an American war hero. Here’s what he said. “He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Now there are a number of things a voter might not like about the Senator. But his military service and his actions as a prisoner of war are sacrosanct to most Americans. McCain was a Navy aviator during the Vietnam War, flying his 23rd bombing mission, when his plane was shot down over Hanoi. Both of his arms and a leg were fractured as he parachuted into a lake. He was captured, and enemy soldiers took a rifle butt and crushed his shoulder, then bayoneted him.

He spent five years in a Hanoi prison where he was often tortured when he tried to help fellow prisoners. When the North Vietnamese found out his father and grandfather were flag officers in the U.S. Navy, he was offered early release and freedom. McCain refused unless his fellow prisoners would also be turned loose, and he spent the next two years in solitary confinement. I met the Senator on the campaign trail in 2008 when he came to Baton Rouge. When I reached out to shake his hand, his bent elbow from his torture could hardly be extended.

Donald Trump took a different direction and ducked the draft. He received four student deferments, then claimed he had a bone spur in his foot and wrangled a medical deferral to avoid his military obligation. Bone spurs? As an old athlete, I know about bone spurs. You give your foot some rest, ice it regularly, and pop a few Advils. Trump is just another in a long line of chicken hawks from the president on down, who refuse to serve their country in the military, then run for public office and suck the country into one war after the other.

While Trump was a draft dodger, I’ve come across many Louisianans who volunteered to go into the military during Vietnam and in numerous other conflicts. I joined up in 1966, during the height of the Viet Nam war, though I was draft exempt, over the maximum draft age, married with a daughter on the way. I expected no special accolades. It was just what any patriotic American should and did do.

So according to Trump, if you are bravely fighting for America under heavy fire and are captured, you cannot be labeled a hero. I wish my old Lake Charles friend, Senator Jesse Knowles, were still around to respond. Jesse was captured by the Japanese army and held in a number of prison camps for 1,228 days. He survived the Bataan Death March where some 6000 Americans died in route. Jesse was beaten for trying to help fellow soldiers walk with no boots, no food or water. He too carried a deformed arm for the rest of his life. To me, Senator Jesse Knowles was an outstanding American hero.

Or how about Webster Parish native D.C. Wimberly, who was a U.S. Army soldier, a prisoner of war in World War II and a past national commander of American Ex-Prisoners of War. He is what he wrote after the war: “On Thanksgiving night, 1944 in Luxembourg, the members of the German Army counterattacked my battalion. Companies E and F were wiped out. I was the Third Platoon sergeant. . . . . . . . I lost forty-six men from my fifty-man platoon. Three others and myself were captured. That night and the next few months we were starving, freezing, walking over lots of Germans. I felt, and to this day feel, that I am living on borrowed time. I have assisted my fellow Americans as a school teacher, administrator, Mason, and Shriner, having dedicated my life to the Christian effort of ‘helping those who cannot help themselves.’ This is also the motto of American Ex-Prisoners of War.”“ª

 I could write about numerous other Louisiana military heroes who were prisoners of war. Donald Trump could not even walk in these soldiers’ boots, let alone be qualified to be President. Trump, although right on challenging other candidates to take strong stands on a number of important issues, is a hypocrite, a loudmouth, and a destructive force in American politics. The nation can find a much better leader than Donald Trump.


“Republican hopeful Rick Perry this week compared Donald Trump to cancer. Which really isn’t fair, because sometimes you can get rid of cancer.” ““Seth Meyers

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.


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