Donald Trump warned John McCain that he (Trump) “fight[s] back,” seemingly in reference to a speech McCain gave on fervent nationalism and a leadership vacuum in Washington, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting.
Speaking to Washington radio station WMAL on Tuesday, Trump lashed out at the Arizona senator for his speech, during which McCain questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism.”
“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back.”
On McCain personally, whom Trump has previously criticized as not being a true war hero because he was captured, Trump had this to say, “I have faced tougher adversaries.”
The source of the rancor is a speech John McCain gave on Monday. As Slate reports, McCain was speaking to the non-partisan National Constitution Center, where he received the organization’s Liberty Medal. In his acceptance speech, McCain had harsh words about fervent nationalism and the direction the country is taking.
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
McCain didn’t give specifics, but in light of recent events, it appears his remarks about “nationalism” were, at the very least, partially inspired by the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. During a “Unite The Right” rally in the city, white nationalists, white supremacists, and other right-wing groups gathered to protest the planned removal of statues of Confederate war heroes. The protests erupted in violence that left one woman dead. Trump’s response to the violence was, by some observations, slow and weak, according to The New York Daily News. Further, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence and said that there were “some very fine people” among the alt-right protesters.
And although McCain, who has been vocal in his opposition to Trump, did not mention Trump or his administration specifically in the speech, it does seem to have hit a nerve within the Trump administration.
On Tuesday, on Fox & Friends, Kellyanne Conway deflected any notion that the speech had anything to do with Trump.
“Well, I just don’t see that in the president’s agenda or in his philosophy.”
— POLITICO (@politico) October 17, 2017
However, if his words to Washington radio host Ken Thomas are any indication, the president is convinced the senator’s words were about him.
Trump on @WMALDC on McCain speech. “People have to be careful because at some point I fight back… and it won’t be pretty.”
— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) October 17, 2017
Further, Trump criticized McCain’s vote this summer on the so-called “Trumpcare” bill, the Republican alternative to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. McCain’s “No” vote is seen as one of the reasons the repeal and replace effort failed.
On Tuesday morning, a reporter asked McCain about Trump’s remarks. According to the Star Tribune, McCain smiled and told reporters that he’s had “tougher fights.”
[Featured Image by J. Scott Applewhite/AP and Carolyn Kaster/AP]