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Keller: Biden and Trump vie for veterans' votes. Who is most supportive of the military?

Keller: Which major-party presidential candidate is more supportive of our military?
Keller: Which major-party presidential candidate is more supportive of our military? 03:01

The opinions expressed below are Jon Keller's, not those of WBZ, CBS News or Paramount Global.

BOSTON - President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are each claiming to support the U.S. military while running ads attacking their opponent on the issue.

Which presidential candidate is more supportive of our military?

"I think it is a measure of a country's support for democratic values that they honor those who have risked their lives and lost their lives," said Biden last weekend as he paid tribute to America's war dead at a cemetery near Paris that then-President Trump famously declined to visit when he was nearby. 

"Why should I go to [Aisne-Marne American] Cemetery?" Trump was quoted saying to aides. "It's filled with losers."

And in two new ads, Biden collects a string of dismissive comments about U.S. veterans attributed to Trump and shows angry New Hampshire veterans lashing out. "I see a man in Joe Biden who accepts accountability and responsibility. And when I see his predecessor, Donald Trump, I see a man who is only in this for himself," says one. 

Adds another about Trump: "He's a draft dodger, simple as that."

Trump says Biden is indifferent to military   

In a video posted to his Truth Social website, Trump fights back, denying everything and splicing together Fox News clips attacking Biden as indifferent to military sacrifice. And at a Las Vegas rally on Sunday, Trump specifically denied ever calling our war dead "losers" or "suckers," asking the crowd: "Unless you're a psycho or a crazy person or a very stupid person, who would say that?"

So who's telling the truth?

Those specific comments were quoted in a 2020 magazine story and reconfirmed years later by retired General John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff.

Some of Trump's insults have been caught on tape, including a 2015 assessment of Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK?"

Why does all this matter politically?

Because while active-duty military and veterans aren't a huge voting block, they are an engaged and important one. About 6% of Americans have some military service, but they tend to be more engaged with the community and current affairs than the public at large.

And they are very much up for grabs, with older vets tending to back Trump while younger vets and active-duty personnel lean toward Biden.
The Biden campaign clearly sees a weakness there, especially since Trump continues to defend the January 6 mob and make other derogatory comments about military personnel, like Nikki Haley's husband, who serves in the National Guard. 

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