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John McCain Takes a Veiled Swipe at Donald Trump’s Medical Exemption From the Vietnam War

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Senator John McCain (R-AZ) appeared to take aim at President Donald Trump’s draft deferrals during the Vietnam War this week, following a series of public rebukes of the Trump administration.

In an interview about the Vietnam War on C-SPAN3, American History TV, on Oct. 22, McCain criticized “high income” draftees who avoided military service while apparently alluding to the president’s own draft exemption — but he did not mention Trump by name.

“One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict by the way that I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” he said, naming the ailment under which Trump received medical deferrals.

“That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve,” McCain said.

The president’s 1968 medical deferral from the Vietnam War, his fifth, according to the Washington Post, was a frequent source of criticism during the 2016 presidential election.

In an interview with the New York Times in 2016, Trump said he received “a very strong letter on the heels” from a doctor, referring to the bone spurs. (Trump has also previously referred to avoiding sexually transmitted diseases as his own “personal Vietnam.”)

McCain, who served 22 years in the Navy, has lashed out repeatedly against the administration in recent weeks. At an award ceremony last week at the National Constitution Center, McCain mourned a shift in American politics to “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

In July, McCain cast a key late night vote to defeat the Republican “skinny repeal” attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act.

McCain and Trump have clashed publicly since the presidential primary, when Trump questioned McCain’s military credentials and reputation as a “war hero,” claiming to prefer “people who weren’t captured” — a reference to McCain’s five years in captivity as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain has meanwhile suggested that Trump apologize to veterans and military families, which Trump refused. More recently, he called Trump “poorly informed” and “impulsive” in an August op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he criticized the president’s response to violence at a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville.

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com