President Barack Obama issued a barely veiled denouncement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s feud with the parents of a U.S. serviceman killed in Iraq, saying that such families should be honored by the nation.
“No one has given more for our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families,” Obama said in remarks at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention in Atlanta, without mentioning Trump’s name. “Our Gold Star families have made a sacrifice that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. We have to do whatever we can for those families and honor them and be humbled by them.”
Obama also delivered indirect rebuttals to Trump’s statements about the U.S. military, saying he’s”pretty tired of some folks trash talking” troops, and defended the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Trump has suggested might be obsolete.
Trump has drawn condemnation from members of both parties by disparaging the Muslim parents of a U.S. officer killed in Iraq, Humayun Khan, who criticized his proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. out of terrorism fears. After Khan’s father, Khizir Khan, denounced Trump’s proposal in a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, Trump questioned why Khizir’s wife, Ghazala, hadn’t spoken, and insisted in an interview with ABC News that he too had made sacrifices in his life by building a business.
“Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all T.V. doing the same – Nice!” Trump said on Twitter on Monday.
Trump’s remarks have drawn widespread scorn, including by Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself a veteran.
“I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates,” McCain said in a statement. “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party.”
McCain, whom Trump once belittled for being captured during the Vietnam war, did not withdraw his endorsement of the nominee.
Gold Star families “represent the best of our country” and “serve as a powerful reminder of the true strength of America,” Obama said in Atlanta.
Obama defended his record on veterans issues, and boasted of progress made at the Department of Veterans Affairs since a scandal over long wait times at VA hospitals cost former Secretary Eric Shinseki his job in 2014. According to the White House, 97 percent of veterans’ medical appointments are now completed within a month of their preferred date, and nine in 10 veterans say they are “satisfied” with the timeliness of their care.
The number of veterans living on the streets declined 17 percent last year to less than 40,000 people, according to a survey conducted annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The disability claims backlog for veterans has meanwhile been cut by nearly 90 percent from its peak in 2013, the White House said.
Trump says he would handle the agency better than Obama or Clinton, though without giving specifics.
“I’m helping the vets a lot,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that aired Sunday. “I think my popularity with the vets is through the roof, far greater than hers. She’s done nothing. All she’s done is tell everybody that the vets are in good shape. They’re fine. And they’re not fine. People are waiting on line for seven days to see a doctor.”