Trump pledges military buildup, better health care for vets

SHARE Trump pledges military buildup, better health care for vets

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a national security speech aboard the World War II Battleship USS Iowa on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Pedro, California. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Republican presidential contender Donald Trump vowed Tuesday to offer frustrated veterans subsidized private health care, charging that immigrants in the country illegally receive better care than the nation’s wounded soldiers.

The comments, delivered aboard a retired World War II battleship in Los Angeles harbor, came on the eve of the second Republican presidential debate in nearby Simi Valley, where some of the billionaire businessman’s GOP rivals are expected to challenge his fiery rhetoric on immigration.

“We have illegal immigrants that are treated better by far than our veterans,” Trump declared, the USS Iowa’s massive 16-inch guns behind him. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”

The Republican front-runner gave no details on how he would pay for an expansion in the armed forces — or veterans’ health care — leaving his foreign policy agenda still mostly a blank slate.

He called for a military buildup so broad that no foe would challenge the U.S., as well as a new health care deal for veterans stuck on waiting lists in hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In doing so, he again swiped at people who are in the country illegally, a refrain that has powered his campaign since the start.

“There’s tremendous crime, there’s tremendous drugs pouring across the border,” Trump said. “We’re going to build a wall.”

Dozens of protesters gathered in the parking lot adjacent to the battleship, periodically chanting, “He’s a racist.”

Some of Trump’s supporters were bothered by the tone of Trump’s comments, even those who said they planned to vote for him.

“You have to careful about how you talk about the Latino population,” said Craig Pahl, among dozens of veterans in a crowd of roughly 500 gathered on the ship’s deck. “I have real mixed views on how he addresses that. . . . Hispanics start thinking, ‘Wow, there are a lot of white prejudiced people out there.’ ”

Trump excites his audiences with tough rhetoric, but he has so far offered little in the way of detailed policies on national security or foreign policy.

He also has struggled to answer basic questions about key players in the Middle East and elsewhere. He acknowledged in a recent radio interview, for example, that he didn’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, but he said he would become an expert on U.S. interests abroad by the time he becomes president.

Republican presidential rival Rand Paul, a leading Trump critic, said Trump’s lack of experience with national security is alarming.

“Do you want someone who appears to still be in grade school to be in charge of the nuclear arsenal?” Paul asked, speaking in a recent Associated Press interview.

On Tuesday evening, however, Trump insisted his skills on the international stage are superior to those of his Republican rivals.

“I’m fighting some very nice people,” he said. “But they’re never going to do anything with these countries. They’re never going to be able to do it. It’s an instinct. It’s something that’s special. They don’t have it.”

STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press

AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report from Washington.

The Latest
Two people opened fire around 1:10 a.m. in the 4700 block of South Princeton Avenue and struck one person in the leg, a 60-year-old man in the arm and a 37-year-old man in the body, according to Chicago police.
Over-policing students, most of whom are Black, has turned our schools into punitive institutions that hurt the most vulnerable kids.
Divorced man seems to be into his single co-worker, who is not interested.
A federal appeals court panel suspended the Fearless Fund grant program for Black women business owners. The lawsuit claimed that it violates federal civil rights law. That’s a cynical weaponization of the law and ignores long-standing racial disparities.
Thinking ahead to your next few meals? Here are some main dishes and sides to try.