Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had one thought when Donald Trump said his best friend in the Senate, John McCain (R-Ariz.), wasn’t a war hero for being captured: “That he’s a jackass,” Graham told CNN.
“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump on Saturday in Iowa. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured…. He’s a war hero because he was captured. OK, I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”
Graham said he thought Trump, his competitor for the 2016 GOP nomination, “is bringing his name down and he is not helping the process.”
“And he shouldn’t be commander-in-chief. If you want to be commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, you need to understand that John McCain and all like him, not just John, are truly American. No one put yourself — when you put yourself in harm’s way, that makes you a hero. But you know what I think what makes you the hero, when you are the spouse raising kids when your loved one is deployed. I’ve been in the military for 33 years. Truly, it’s a team and family,” he said.
Graham retired from the Air Force this year with the Reserve rank of colonel.
“So, what he said about John I think was offensive. He is becoming a jackass at a time when we need to have a serious debate about the future of the party and the country. We’re on the verge of giving an Iranian ayatollah, who is a radical jihadist, a pathway to a nuclear bomb, but we’re literally falling apart,” the senator continued. “We are becoming Greece here at home. All we are talking about is Donald Trump and everybody he insults. But he’s crossed the line here. And maybe some frustration with our border. I get that. That’s no justification.”
“Saying that John McCain and people like him are not American heroes. The American people will not tolerate what he is doing regarding those who have served. This is a line he has crossed. And this is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.”
Graham acknowledged that he’s “really pissed.”
“Because come on, you know, John and I have been buddies. Forget about John. What about Bud Day? A Medal of Honor winner in Iowa that I got to know through John. I cannot tell you how many prisoners of war I met through John McCain and all of them are incredible people,” he said. “So, it’s not about John. It’s about all of those who have experienced captivity. And when they asked Trump, you know, ‘do you know what he went through?’ ‘No, that doesn’t matter.’ Yes it does, man. It matters to them a lot.”
“It matters a lot that you would be tortured for five-and-a-half years trying to defend your nation. So, I’m confident the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina will figure this out. I’m really frankly tired of this. The world is falling apart. My party is trying to re-emerge as a viable national voice. I think we’re on the verge of a good comeback here. And every time I turn around, I’m being asked about Donald Trump saying one dumb thing after another. And I’m tired of it.”
Graham said Trump needs to “tell me what you would do about anything.”
“Tell me how you would solve the immigration problem. Tell me what you would do with Iran. You know, articulate a solution to Americans — America’s problems. Stop disparaging people like Senator McCain. It doesn’t elevate you. It gets us all off in a ditch,” he said. “Trying to realize you are running for the highest office in the land, the strongest voice in the world. You take the quest more seriously.”