In an implicit rebuke of Donald Trump, President Obama praised the nation’s Gold Star families, saying those who’ve lost loved ones in military service are “a powerful reminder of the true strength of America.”
“No one has given more for our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families,” Obama said Monday, in a speech to the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta. “Our Gold Star families have made a sacrifice that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.”
The president was implicitly aligning himself with the parents of Humayun Khan, a U.S. Army captain who was killed 12 years ago while serving in Iraq.
Khan’s father spoke at last week’s Democratic convention, describing how his son, a Muslim, gave his life to save his fellow soldiers.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” Khizr Khan said, adding that Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Asked about that speech during a weekend interview with ABC, Trump questioned whether the words were Khan’s own.
“Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writer write it?” Trump asked. “I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done –I’ve had tremendous success.”
Trump hasn’t backed down, adding Monday on Twitter, “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!”
Trump’s remarks have drawn condemnation from across the political spectrum.
“I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain in a statement. “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
While Obama did not cite Trump by name Monday, there was no mistaking the target of his remarks as he spoke about the “sacrifice” Gold Star families have made. “We have to do everything we can for those families and honor them and be humbled by them.”
The president also took a veiled swipe at Trump for criticizing America’s military readiness. Back in January, the Republican presidential hopeful said the U.S. military was “a disaster,” and last month he told a Virginia TV station “we have a military that’s depleted and in horrible shape.”
Obama told the veterans group, “I’m pretty tired of some folks trash talking America’s military and troops.”
The president conceded that troop levels have dropped somewhat from the height of the Afghan and Iraq wars. “But let’s get some facts straight,” he said. “We have the most capable fighting force in history. And we’re going to keep it that way.”