During the plane ride to Philadelphia for the annual Army–Navy football game, a fierce but friendly rivalry whose fans are united in a sense of patriotic duty, President Donald Trump took a break from watching television to lash out once again at a Democrat over his military record, inviting accusations of hypocrisy. He tweeted from Air Force One:
Watched Da Nang Dick Blumenthal on television spewing facts almost as accurate as his bravery in Vietnam (which he never saw). As the bullets whizzed by Da Nang Dicks head, as he was saving soldiers ... left and right, he then woke up from his dream screaming that HE LIED. Next time I go to Vietnam I will ask ‘the Dick’ to travel with me!
Trump’s outburst was apparently prompted by Senator Blumenthal’s appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball, where the Connecticut Democrat argued that Friday’s developments in the Russia probe show “the walls are closing in on Donald Trump and his inner circle, including his family.” Returning to a frequent line of attack, Trump was referring to Blumenthal’s history of misrepresenting his military service during the Vietnam era. Several times he said in speeches that he had served “in Vietnam” when in reality he served in a relatively cushy Marine reserve unit that allowed him to stay stateside and advance his career and education; he talked about how Vietnam veterans were treated “when we returned.” (Trump did not mention that the 2010 exposé of Blumenthal’s misstatements came from the “failing New York Times” that he derides as fake news, the same outlet that first exposed Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business.)
Though Blumenthal did not serve in Vietnam, he did serve in the military for six years during that era. Trump, who was born the same year as Blumenthal, has never served and famously avoided military service with a series of deferments culminating in a medical exemption due to bone spurs in his heels. He has also publicly misrepresented why he was not drafted. In a 2011 Fox interview, Trump recalled watching the draft lottery and worrying that he would be selected. In a July 2015 ABC interview after he had launched a presidential campaign and derided Senator John McCain for having been shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, Trump suggested that the only reason he did not serve was because of a high lottery number that meant he would not get drafted. He didn’t mention the medical exemption, which made his lottery number irrelevant, a Selective Service System spokesman told the Times.
Trump’s bashing of Blumenthal and others over their military service maintains the opening for critics to label him a hypocrite, as when the father of an Army captain killed in Iraq spoke at the 2016 Democratic Convention and addressed himself to the then-candidate Trump: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”