Buttigieg Slams Trump for Avoiding the Vietnam War

By Kenneth T. Walsh, Contributor?May 27, 2019
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By Kenneth T. Walsh, Contributor?May 27, 2019, at 8:12 a.m.

Buttigieg Slams Trump Over Vietnam

FORT DODGE, IOWA - APRIL 14: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg hosts a town hall meeting at the Lions Den on April 16, 2019 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This was Buttigieg’s first visit to the state since announcing that he was officially seeking the Democratic nomination during a rally in South Bend on Sunday.   (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg hosts a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa on April 16, 2019.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Pete Buttigieg, a long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, attempted to resurrect a potentially embarrassing issue from Donald Trump's past Sunday when he condemned Trump for avoiding military service during the Vietnam war.

Portraying the commander in chief as a draft evader could help Buttigieg stand out in the crowded Democratic field in which more than 20 candidates are seeking the party's nomination. The gambit, first and foremost, is designed to cast President Trump in a negative light. It also shows a certain toughness on Buttigieg's part because he is going directly after Trump, who tends to harshly attack those who criticize him. And it reminds voters of Buttigieg's background as a military veteran who demonstrated patriotism by serving in the Afghanistan war as a Navy intelligence officer. Buttigieg's attack coincided with Memorial Day weekend, which traditionally is when the country honors people who died while serving in the U.S.armed forces.

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Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., still has a long way to go in the race. He lags far behind Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the polls. But he is getting plenty of attention for his anti-Trump message, which was extremely pointed.

"There is no question, I think, to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving," Buttigieg told ABC News. "You have somebody who thinks it's all right to let somebody go in his place into a deadly war and is willing to pretend to be disabled in order to do it. That is an assault on the honor of this country."

Trump received four draft deferments while he was in college during the Vietnam war and a medical deferment for having bone spurs, according to Politico. The story was reported during the 2016 campaign and now Buttigieg is resurrecting it with a new sense of outrage.

Last Thursday, the mayor told the Washington Post that Trump had used his "privileged status to fake a disability." During the weekend, he expanded his criticism of Trump as commander in chief.

Buttigieg attacked Trump for considering pardons for some service members who have been accused or convicted of war crimes. "The idea that being sent to war turns you into a murderer is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who have served have been trying to beat back for more than a generation," he said. "....For a president, especially a president who never served, to say he's going to come in and overrule that system of military justice undermines the very foundations, legal and moral, of this country."

Buttigieg also criticized the Trump administration's decision to deploy more than 1,500 military personnel in the Middle East to deter Iran. Buttigieg told ABC, "Escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now."

And Buttigieg said that when Trump met with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year and in Hanoi this year, "He was essentially handing North Korea something they needed, which was legitimacy....And the way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something. It hasn't worked at all."

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