WASHINGTON ― “Donald Trump has proven that he is a bigot.”
That’s how Nate Terani, a Navy veteran from Arizona, greeted the woman at the front desk in Sen. John McCain’s office on Thursday afternoon.
“Our military is one of the most diverse militaries in the world,” he continued. “Donald Trump has proved that he’s not fit to lead us.”
Terani didn’t march in there alone. A handful of vets from around the country flew in to join him and deliver a petition with 100,000 signatures urging GOP leaders like McCain to un-endorse Trump for president.
They had just wrapped up a rally outside, and now they were here to talk to the Arizona Republican directly ― or, at least, to his receptionist. Congress is out of session until September, so this was the best they could do for now.
The exchange was rather anti-climactic ― Terani made a few statements about how awful Trump is and McCain’s aide thanked him for coming in ― but the vets made their point. They left behind a stack of boxes that represented tens of thousands of people looking for respected voices in the Republican Party to officially reject Trump. (The boxes were entirely for show, The Huffington Post later learned. Organizers with MoveOn.org and Common Defense PAC, the groups behind the event, quietly turned over a flash drive with petition signers’ data on it.)
McCain, like nearly all GOP lawmakers, is endorsing Trump for president, despite the GOP nominee’s comments disparaging women, Muslims, people with disabilities, immigrants and, most recently, the family of a Muslim American war hero who died in Iraq while protecting his troops. Trump isn’t returning the favor ― and he has even directly targeted the Arizona senator, mocking McCain’s status as a prisoner of war.
But the vets who gathered Thursday say they’re holding out for McCain ― who at least used to have a reputation for being an independent thinker and “a maverick” ― to step up to Trump.
“John McCain is a leader in the Republican Party. He’s known as someone who stands up for his values, who stands up for integrity, and puts his patriotism and the values of America before party. He’s someone that Donald Trump has personally insulted,” said Alexander McCoy, a Marine vet from New York. “We hope that he listens to us today. We believe that will be a large indication of whether he stands with veterans.”
Mickiela Montoya, an Army vet from California, appealed to McCain to “do what you know in your heart is right” when it comes to Trump.
The real estate mogul is “only interested in his own personal profit,” said Montoya. “His history reflects that. Please withdraw your endorsement immediately.”
A McCain spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.