The 2016 Republican presidential candidate was long on promises, but light on specifics, as he called for a stronger military and better veterans care.
PORT OF LOS ANGELES—Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump used the backdrop of the massive guns of a World War II battleship Tuesday evening to promise a stronger military and better care for veterans.
“We’re going to make our military so big and so strong and so great,” he said to loud cheers from the several hundred assembled on deck, many of whom had paid the sponsoring Veterans for a Strong America $100 each for a ticket. “And it will be so powerful that I don’t think we’re ever going to have to use it. Nobody’s going to mess with us.”
Apart from a promise that veterans who could not receive quick attention at a Veterans Affairs clinic or hospital would be able to go to a private doctor, Trump offered no specifics about the military, veterans, or any other issue. Instead he kept to his general campaign theme of boasting of his skills as a businessman and negotiator, along with a promise to end illegal immigration across the southern border.
“We’re going to build a wall,” he said from the aft deck of the USS Iowa, which is now a floating museum. “And Mexico is going to pay for that wall.”
Trump has equated his years at a military school with actual military service and disparaged Vietnam War prisoner of war John McCain for having been captured in the first place while Trump avoided that war thanks to deferments. He has nonetheless climbed to the top of the 2016 Republican polls.
The Iowa is berthed at San Pedro, a working-class community with a large Mexican-American population. Trump has not been popular there because of his recent statements about Mexicans and illegal immigrants, and a few hundred protesters chanted within clear earshot of the ship’s deck as Trump gave his speech.
Some Republican Party leaders worry that Trump’s tone could undermine the party’s efforts to improve relations with Latino voters heading into the 2016 general election. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Illegal immigration was also a key issue in the course of the Republican primaries that year, and Romney at one point suggested that those unlawfully in this country should “self-deport.”
Trump and 10 other GOP candidates will participate in a prime-time debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley Wednesday evening. The remaining four candidates who are ranked lower in the polls are participating in their own debate immediately prior to the main event.