In Iowa, Trump turns on Walker

GOP can­di­date slams Wis­con­sin gover­nor’s record af­ter in­sult

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY DAVID WEIGEL david.weigel@wash­post.com

Oskaloosa, iowa — First Don­ald Trump ques­tioned whether Sen. John McCain was truly a war hero.

The he re­vealed to a South Carolina crowd the per­sonal phone num­ber of Sen. Lind­sey O. Graham (S.C.), one of his ri­vals for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

On Satur­day Trump went for the hat trick, glee­fully in­sult­ing Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker be­cause one of Walker’s fundrais­ers called the bil­lion­aire real es­tate mogul “Dumb Dumb.”

“Fi­nally, I can at­tack!” Trump said at a packed rally at Oskaloosa High School. “Wis­con­sin’s do­ing ter­ri­bly. It’s in tur­moil. The roads are a dis­as­ter be­cause they don’t have any money to re­build them. They’re bor­row­ing money like crazy. They pro­jected a $1 bil­lion sur­plus, and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 bil­lion. The schools are a dis­as­ter. The hos­pi­tals and ed­u­ca­tion was a dis­as­ter. And he was to­tally in fa­vor of Com­mon Core!”

The men­tion of the stat­edriven ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards — from which Walker, like many Repub­li­can gover­nors, has walked away — in­cited a pro­longed boo. That was not enough for Trump, who told a story about Walker giv­ing him a “beau­ti­ful plaque” out of grat­i­tude for cam­paign do­na­tions and won­dered if “Wis­con­sin paid for it.”

Repub­li­cans’ hopes of ban­ish­ing Trump from their pres­i­den­tial pri­mary may have wilted in the heat of the Iowa sum­mer. On his first visit to the cau­cus state since the McCain in­sult, Trump drew a crowd of 1,300 in a city of 11,463. He cleaned up his re­marks about vet­er­ans, from the stage and in the crowd. He talked with char­ac­ter­is­tic gusto about “killing in the polls” and se­cur­ing a spot in the party’s first sanc­tioned de­bate, sched­uled for Aug. 6.

“I’m go­ing to be there,” Trump told re­porters, “much to the cha­grin of many peo­ple.”

Trump did all of this at a fourhour spec­ta­cle— the Make Amer­ica Great Again Rally and Fam­ily Pic­nic — that felt like a New York cin­e­matog­ra­pher’s idea of an “Iowa event.” A cam­paign bus stood un­used un­til Trump posed in front of his, giv­ing a dou­ble thumbs up be­fore hop­ping into an SUV. The out­door bar­be­cue was so large that Trump en­dorser Tana Go­ertz — who had been a con­tes­tant on Trump’s NBC se­ries, “The Ap­pren­tice”— asked the crowd to gorge them­selves a lit­tle more. “Mr. Trump can’t take all this food home on the plane,” she said.

As they lined up for the speech, con­ser­va­tive Iowans fell into two camps. One group adored Trump’s brio but wished he hadn’t got­ten per­sonal with McCain (RARIZ.). The larger camp egged Trump on for again re­fus­ing to play nice. Although a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Trump’s rat­ings slip­ping af­ter his com­ments about McCain, the crowd in Oskaloosa saw another rea­son to trust him. Some Repub­li­can vot­ers, who had du­ti­fully turned out for “anti­estab­lish­ment” can­di­dates and been dis­ap­pointed, in­sisted that Trump was just the man to blow up the sys­tem.

Dave Moore, 30, a Na­tional Guard vet­eran and welder, said, “Repub­li­cans keep send­ing chi­huahuas to a pit­bull fight and be­ing nice, and the only time they’re mean is to each other.”

The McCain spat, Moore said, was an ex­am­ple of that. “Peo­ple ap­plied that to all sol­diers,” he said. “Trump was try­ing to pro­tect his peo­ple.”

That was Trump’s of­fi­cial line. Inthe seven days since he sug­gested that merely be­ing “cap­tured” did not make McCain a hero, Trump has al­ter­nately de­nied that he said it, talked up his work for vet­er­ans, and said that he was only re­spond­ing to McCain for call­ing op­po­nents of immigration re­form “cra­zies.”

Trump de­ployed all of those ar­gu­ments here Satur­day. One of his warm-up speak­ers, 20-year Navy SEAL Brad Nagel, in­sisted that Trump re­spected vet­er­ans, un­like “peo­ple who think we’re cra­zies.” (McCain had not been re­fer­ring to vet­er­ans.) Event staffers who found vet­er­ans in the crowd handed them “Vet­er­ans for Trump” signs. Late into his 56minute speech, Trump beck­oned to some­one off­stage, and a woman in a black dress de­liv­ered a stack of pa­per wrapped in a red bow.

This, Trump said, rep­re­sented one day of “more than 700 letters from vet­er­ans, thank­ing me.” They ap­pre­ci­ate his char­ity, he said, and trust him to re­form Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, even though he did not serve in the mil­i­tary.

“I might not have been a great soldier,” Trump said. “I don’t know. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.”

Trump’s cleanup seemed to do the trick. Tammy Sparks, 54, came to the event be­cause she in­ter­preted the com­ment as an in­sult to her fa­ther, a pris­oner of war dur­ing World War II.

“I heard he’d been say­ing some bad stuff about pris­on­ers of war, and I was so ir­ri­tated,” Sparks said. “One of the guys in suits ex­plained it to me. And when Mr. Trump saw me again, he said, ‘ That was not what I meant.’ ”

Oth­ers said there was noth­ing to apol­o­gize for, as far as McCain was con­cerned. “He’s done noth­ing for vet­er­ans, noth­ing to se­cure our borders,” said Randy Binns, who wore a hat and pin com­mem­o­rat­ing his ser­vice in the 1991 and 2003 Iraq in­va­sions. “If he was run­ning again, I’d tell him to get out of town.”

In Oskaloosa, Trump told his main au­di­ence, of 700, about his Thurs­day visit to the U.S.-Mexico bor­der. He told an over­flow au­di­ence that Pres­i­dent Obama had failed POWs by win­ning Bowe Bergdahl’s re­lease from the Tal­iban but not get­ting Iran to turn over hostages.

Trump also won cheers for telling how he de­nied cre­den­tials to the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest news­pa­per, af­ter its ed­i­to­rial board called on him to quit the race. In a back-and-forth with re­porters, with the Register’s team kept out­side his event, Trump proved that he was com­fort­able be­ing play­ful with the facts.

“I didn’t ban them,” he in­sisted. “They just couldn’t get cre­den­tials.”

“Repub­li­cans keep send­ing chi­huahuas to a pit­bull fight and be­ing nice, and the only time they’re mean is to each other.” Dave Moore, Na­tional Guard vet­eran

CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump greets sup­port­ers be­fore speak­ing in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he scored points with some vet­er­ans af­ter ques­tion­ing whether Sen. JohnMcCain was a war hero.

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