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Former Virginia U.S. Senator John Warner crosses party lines to endorse Hillary Clinton

Former Armed Services Committee chairman “distressed” by Donald Trump’s criticisms of the military

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

virginia mugALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CFP) — Former Republican U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, questioning Republican nominee Donald Trump’s ability to lead on national security issues and military affairs.

Former U.S. Senator John Warner

Former U.S. Senator John Warner

“You don’t pull up a quick text, like National Security for Dummies,” Warner said at a September 28 rally in Alexandria where he announced he would vote for Clinton in November. “You have to build on a foundation of experience how you will go forward in the leadership of this country.”

Warner, without mentioning Trump by name, took particular issue with Trump over his critical comments on the state of the U.S. military.

“It is not in shambles. It is not the admirals and the generals … in the rubble in the hallways of the Pentagon,” Warner said. “No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the Purple Heart, degrade military families or talk about the military being in a state of disaster.”

Warner’s remark about the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the military wounded in battle, stemmed from an August rally in Virginia during which a veteran gave Trump his medal. Trump then told the audience that he had always wanted a Purple Heart but “this was much easier.”

Warner, 89, is the longest serving senator in Virginia history, in office from 1979 until 2009, and was also Navy secretary during the Nixon administration. He spent more than six years as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Clinton also served when she was a senator.

Warner lauded Clinton’s work on the committee, saying she was always well prepared and had one of the best attendance records among senators on the panel. He also said that the September 26 debate between Clinton and Trump showed that she was composed while he was not, despite Trump’s insistence afterward that he won the debate.

“The film speaks for itself. You can’t rewrite it. There it is,” Warner said.

The former senator also had kind words for Clinton’s running mate and fellow Virginian, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who he said “exemplified what this country needs foremost — a man of unquestioned integrity.”

Warner was flanked at the rally by Kaine and the commonwealth’s other senator, Democratic Mark Warner, who is no relation to the former senator.

The endorsement of the popular Warner, who won 83 percent of the vote in his last re-election campaign in 2002, may help strengthen the prospects of the Clinton-Kaine ticket in Virginia, where polls show them with a lead.

Virginia has gone Democratic in the last two presidential elections, after going for the GOP candidate in 10 straight elections dating back to 1968.

Outside of his political career, Warner may be best known as the sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he wed in 1976. They divorced in 1982.

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