Trump speaks to veterans at motorcyclists’ rally
WASHINGTON— Donald Trump on Sunday promised better health care, a stronger military and new donations to veterans’ causes as he spoke at the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.
“We’re not winning now… we certainly don’t win for our veterans,” the presumptive Republican nominee said to thousands of motorcyclists gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. “We are going to start winning so much. We are going to win, win, win.”
But the cheers and applause Trump received from the veterans on Sunday belied some bumps in his relationship with the voting bloc after his remarks about prisoners of war and his failure to turn over all the money he raised for veterans in January.
Trump holds a 9- percentage point lead with veterans over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, according to a poll of more than 1,600 veterans conducted from May 13 to 24 by Morning Consult. Four years ago, Republican Mitt Romney led President Barack Obama by 24 points among veterans, a Gallup survey showed.
Trump echoed many of his campaign themes, pledging to build a wall along the Mexican border and mocking Clinton. Unlike other rallies, Sunday’s event drew no visible protest.
Trump promised to end long lines at Veterans Affairs hospitals and to announce more about his donations to veterans groups on Tuesday. Trump’s comments come after he has been under scrutiny in the media for failing to donate millions of dollars he said he raised for veterans in January at a fund- raiser he held instead of attending a Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News.
At the time, Trump said he raised $ 6 million for veterans, including $1 million from his own pocket. Reports since then have indicated the total was less and that Trump had yet to donate any of the money to veterans charities until this week when he gave his $1 million to the Marine CorpsLaw Enforcement Foundation.
Trump also angered some veterans when he insulted one of the most famous prisoners of war, former Republican presidential nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain. Trump said McCain is only a war hero “because he was captured.”
Max Lorenz, a Vietnam veteran from Peekskill, New York, said he’s been attending Rolling Thunder on and off for about eight years and that it was nice to see Trump show up this year.
“I haven’t seen a president here yet— any president,” he said. Trump “is a shoo- in, so I’m already calling him president. So he’s one coming here and addressing because he cares about vets.
“And when I got out of Vietnam, he donated to the Vietnam veterans right off the bat,” Lorenz added. “He didn’t take any credit for it. I never forgot that, and that’s why he’s always an ardent supporter for Vietnam veterans and all veterans.”
Bill Powers of Austin, Texas, who has been attending Rolling Thunder since the early 2000s, said he liked Trump’s speech, but wished he would elaborate more on how he plans to fix things. “I believe he will,” he added.
The annual Rolling Thunder event started in 1988. Vietnam veteran Ray Manzo organized the first demonstration because he was bothered by reports of prisoners of war who were left behind in Vietnam and soldiers whose remains were not being returned to the United States for a proper burial. The event has since developed into a larger demonstration showing support for all current and former armed service members.