By Arit John, Ebony Davis, Aaron Pellish and Kylie Atwood | CNN
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley slams Donald Trump for comments mocking her husband’s absence deployed overseas, uses former president’s remarks to highlight his long history of smearing members of the army.
This strategy is unlikely to change the dynamics of the GOP primaries before the Feb. 24 primary in his home state. But it shows how her continued presence in the race has been a thorn in Trump’s side, as she continues to criticize and provoke him in ads, on cable television and on the campaign trail.
In interviews, fundraising posts and a new digital ad, Haley has framed the former president’s comments as part of an ongoing disrespect for the military and their services and claims it’s proof further that he would lead an undisciplined general election campaign and presidency.
Haley called Trump’s comments “disgusting,” “horrible” and “unhinged” during an appearance on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Someone who would make such comments does not deserve to be commander in chief, she said.
“If you don’t respect our military, how should we think that you’re going to respect them in war, and prevent the war and prevent them from continuing? » Haley said Monday. “If you don’t have respect for our military and our veterans, God help us all if that’s the case.”
Haley made the comments after spending most of Monday criticizing Trump. In a meeting with reporters in Elgin, South Carolina, on Monday afternoon, she said her comments put the military at risk by implying Trump didn’t support them and denounced her own lack of experience military.
“The most harm he ever suffered was when a golf ball hit him on a golf cart,” she told reporters. “And you’re going to go make fun of our men and women in the army? No matter what party you’re at, it’s not okay.
Neither Trump nor Haley served in the military. Trump avoided being drafted into the Vietnam War thanks to five reprieves, one for bone spurs and four for education.
His campaign has highlighted several comments Trump has made publicly or privately over the years.
In September 2020, The Atlantic reported that Trump called fallen soldiers “losers” and “suckers” and questioned why veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery would enlist. John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff, confirmed several details in the report to CNN last year.
In 2015, during his first presidential campaign, Trump said he loved “people who weren’t captured” while attacking Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Three years later, he suggested that retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, should have completed the mission sooner.
On Saturday, Trump noted that Haley’s husband, Michael, had not appeared on the campaign trail with her.
“What happened to her husband?” Where is he?'” Trump said at a rally Saturday in Conway, South Carolina. “He’s gone.” Michael Haley is a South Carolina National Guard officer who is currently deployed in support of the US Africa Command.
Throughout his campaign, Nikki Haley has brought up her husband’s military service to advocate for increased investment in veterans’ services and to fend off criticism that she is too hawkish. His campaign said it engaged with voters angered by his comments, pointing out that the Palmetto State is home to a large portion of military families.
It’s unclear whether hitting Trump over his comments will change the dynamics of the race. A recent Monmouth/Washington Post poll in South Carolina found Haley trailing Trump by 26 points in the state, and his campaign has struggled to plot its path to the nomination.
But his response showed where Trump might be weak in the general election. On Sunday, President Joe Biden — Trump’s likely opponent in the general election — defended the Haleys on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We know he thinks our troops are ‘idiots,’ but this guy wouldn’t know how to serve his country if it slapped him,” Biden wrote on the site.
For her part, Haley’s criticism of Trump only intensified on Monday. His campaign has raised money through comments, giving away shirts reading “We love our military” to supporters who donate $15 to his campaign.
Also Monday, his campaign released a digital ad highlighting Trump’s disparaging remarks about members of the military, with news clips and video of his response to Trump at a South Carolina rally this weekend, in which she called on him to debate her. .
“If you don’t care about a veteran’s service, you don’t deserve a driver’s license, let alone be president of the United States,” she says in the ad.
And she continued to hit Trump during campaign events in South Carolina on Monday.
“You can’t have a commander in chief who doesn’t understand what made this country great,” Haley said during a stop in Laurens, South Carolina. “It’s values, it’s sacrifice, it’s freedom. This is what we fight for every day.
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