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The 30-second spot featured an Afghanistan war veteran who lost his leg in combat doing weighted squats in his garage. The advertisement warned Trump that pursuing a ban on Muslim immigration or repealing the Affordable Care Act would only further tank his approval ratings.
As the veteran works out, he speaks in a voiceover:
“Look, you lost the popular vote. You’re having trouble drawing a crowd, and your approval rating keeps sinking. But kicking thousands of my fellow veterans off their health insurance by killing the Affordable Care Act and banning Muslims won’t help. That’s not the America I sacrificed for. You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one,” said the unnamed veteran.
The group interpreted a tweet that Trump sent out a few minutes after the spot aired as confirmation that their message was heard—and swiftly dismissed.
Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
Citing concerns for the privacy and safety of the veteran and his family, a spokesman for VoteVets told the Daily Dot in an e-mail that they intend to keep the veteran’s name anonymous. The spokesman added that veteran—who served in the Marines—was wounded in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED while clearing out an area and lost one of his fellow Marines in the same explosion.
Most polls leading up to the election indicated Trump was the leading choice of military and veteran voters. Support for the president was particularly high among active-duty military who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. One poll found that nearly three-fourths of the group support Trump.
The New York Times in December reported that Trump is weighing a plan to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing veterans to see private doctors of their choosing. Critics warn that such a move would dismantle a healthcare system specifically intended for the complicated injuries and ailments of the nation’s military.
The Department of Veterans Affairs underwent massive struggles under the Obama administration that led the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in 2014 after a report found that veterans died due to excessive wait times for healthcare at the VA. Veterans groups American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars applauded progress the agency made under VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who was appointed by Obama after the Shinseki fallout.
Trump’s pick to head the VA—Dr. David Shulkin—is a former Army psychiatrist who grew up on an army base in Illinois.
Military Times noted that, if confirmed, Shulkin would be the first VA secretary with no experience serving in the ranks.
“Every previous secretary, whether they were actually qualified or not, started the job from a position of trust because they were veterans,” said Bill Rausch, an Army veteran and executive director of Got Your 6, a group that teams with Hollywood celebrities to issue PSAs on veteran’s issues. “The thought is that since they were vets, they’d understand veterans needs.”
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.