Presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton talks reclaiming patriotism from Trump, Republicans

PHOTO: Massachusetts congressman and presidential candidate Seth Moulton speaks at a Town Hall event at Newburyport Senior Community Center in Newburyport, Mass., May 5, 2019. PlayJim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
WATCH Democratic Party is 'careening to the left': Rep. Seth Moulton

Presidential candidate and combat veteran Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., is emphasizing the importance of patriotism and security in his bid for the White House, themes he says are often claimed as mantles by Republicans.

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"I am running a campaign based on service, by reclaiming patriotism from the right-wing politicians that think that they own it, on what it means from a Democratic perspective to keep America strong and safe," Moulton told ABC’s "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Talking to Raddatz over the holiday weekend, Moulton criticized President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July "Salute to America" event, pointing to the contradiction in the president encouraging Americans to enlist when he was granted deferment from service over bone spurs.

"Now is your chance to join our military and make a truly great statement in life. And you should do it," Trump said in his remarks.

Moulton said, "I think that Trump believes that by saluting the troops and saluting the flag today it makes up for his unwillingness to do so when it actually matters -- his unwillingness to answer the call to go to Vietnam."

The Marine veteran added, "Real service to the country is making a sacrifice to do the right thing for others. To do the right thing for America. And Trump doesn’t understand that at all."

Trump used the July Fourth celebration, in part, as a call to action for young people to join the military, saying, "Now is your chance to join our military and make a truly great statement in life. And you should do it."

PHOTO: Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton addresses the crowd at House Majority Whip Jim Cyburns World Famous Fish Fry, June 21, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. Meg Kinnard/AP
Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton addresses the crowd at House Majority Whip Jim Cyburn's "World Famous Fish Fry," June 21, 2019, in Columbia, S.C.

"We need a commander in chief who does the right thing for the country," Moulton said on "This Week," "who restores moral leadership to the White House, who tells the troops we are never going to put you in harm’s way without a clear mission and a clear way home."

Sense of service nothing new to Moulton

Moulton enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Harvard University in 2003 with a degree in physics and four years later, Raddatz was with the infantry officer before he left for his fourth combat tour in Iraq.

"I think a lot of people look at me and say, 'Why do want to go back now? Why would you want to be part of the war when it's going so poorly?' But I think this is the most important time for people to serve," Moulton said in 2007.

Twelve years later, the congressman recalled his decision to serve in the Marines Corps.

"As much as I disagreed with the war, I knew I could have more of an impact by being there on the ground, influencing how it was being fought every single day, than just by being back home," Moulton told Raddatz.

While home in Massachusetts between tours in 2007, Moulton helped his Iraqi interpreter, Mohammed Harba, in his efforts seeking asylum in the United States. In December of that year, Harba’s asylum request was granted.

"He was one of the many people in the world who came to America, looking for asylum, a perfectly legal thing to do, which I think is something that I think is lost in this immigration debate today and he did so because he is an American hero too. He put his life on the line not just for his country -- Iraq, but for his new country America," Moulton said.

PHOTO: Massachusetts congressman and presidential candidate Seth Moulton speaks at a Town Hall event at Newburyport Senior Community Center in Newburyport, Mass., May 5, 2019. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Massachusetts congressman and presidential candidate Seth Moulton speaks at a Town Hall event at Newburyport Senior Community Center in Newburyport, Mass., May 5, 2019.

As a veteran, Moulton received his health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and continues to do so even after he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Moulton said his first-hand experience is an important factor in his decision not to support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan. Receiving health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs has helped him better understand the good and the bad of a single-payer plan.

"The bottom line is everybody in America needs health care because it is a human right. But we should get there by doing what [Barack] Obama wanted from the beginning, which is a public option, a sort of Medicare, if you would like it, that competes against private health care plans in order to drive down prescription drug prices," Moulton explained.

Back in April, when announcing his run on "Good Morning America," he joked, "I think I'm the only candidate who actually gets single-payer health care."

The congressman didn’t qualify for the first Democratic presidential debate last month, and it's unclear if he'll qualify for this month's second debate. But he pitched his absence from the stage as a loss for moderates.

"You saw on the debate stage the Democratic Party just careening to the left and promising a bunch of free things without any real strategy for getting these things done for the American people," Moulton said.

"Trump is going to be harder to beat than many Democrats like to believe," he added.