As Donald Trump insults and attacks Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a fallen Muslim-American soldier, his multiple deferments from military service are facing fresh scrutiny.
Between 1964 and 1968, Trump, son of a wealthy New York realtor, received four deferments for ongoing education, and one, after he had finished studies, for bone-spurs on his heels. Saved by the spurs, protrusions caused by a pile-up of calcium that can be treated, Trump stayed home as men his age were shipped to Vietnam to fight a war that America would lose.
But in earlier accounts, Trump has claimed he was saved by getting lucky in the draft lottery — he drew a number that took him way back of the queue of those to deploy before him.
The New York Times said in a front-page article on Tuesday Trump’s “public statements about his draft experience sometimes conflict with his Selective Service records, and he is often hazy in recalling details”.
Evading conscription has not derailed presidential campaigns before for Bill Clinton and George W Bush but Trump faces extra scrutiny because of his attacks on the Khans.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Captain Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004, had criticised Trump at the Democratic convention for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Trump retaliated, by insulting them. Even people in his own Republican party were outraged — Senator John McCain issued a very public rebuke in a statement on Monday.
But that’s not going to be enough. Calling Trump “unfit” to serve as president, President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged Republican leaders to repudiate their nominee.
So far, only Richard Hanna, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, has done so. He said Tuesday he would be voting for Clinton, becoming the first congressman to cross party line.
Other leaders and advisers are reported to be urging Trump, who is easily riled, to stay on the message and not be distracted by such rows that have tended to play badly for him, most times.
“My advice to Donald Trump has been and will continue to be to focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism,” Roy Blunt, Republican senator, said in a statement.
Polls show Americans do indeed believe Trump will do better than Clinton in fixing the economy, which is also polling as the most important election issue, more than national security.
Coming out of the convention, Clinton, whose poll numbers are up by between 3 and 9 points, tried to address it right away by undertaking a bus tour of areas hit hard by unemployment.
Her campaign is also trying to undercut Trump’s appeal as a businessman who has created thousands of jobs, by rolling out endorsements by billionaires who have done more.
Warren Buffet, the man often called the richest in the world, appeared with Clinton at a campaign event Monday and challenged Trump to release his tax records.
The Republican nominee has refused to so far — upending what has become standard practice in elections — offering one reason or the other, triggering speculation he was hiding something.
Clinton is leading Trump in all major polls and holds a 4.4-point lead over him in the RealClearPolitics average, but has failed to widen the gap despite Trump’s growing list of blunders.
His spat with the Khans, being the latest, which, apart from the outrage, has now brought back into light his deferments from military service, showing him up as an entitled elite.