In his latest indiscretion, Donald Trump has committed a cardinal sin of public life – denigrating soldiers and their families. Following the DNC, the erstwhile reality star and Republican presidential candidate has gotten himself into hot water over his aggressive response to the parents of a fallen US solider.
In unscripted remarks in Philadelphia, Khizr Khan – father of Humayun S.M. Khan, a captain killed in Iraq protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers – lambasted Trump, who he said was ignorant of the US constitution. He further explained that Trump’s divisive rhetoric is an insult to those who have sacrificed so much for the country. In his speech, Khan rhetorically asked Trump:
Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
(Watch Khan’s powerful speech at the DNC in Philadelphia.)
Trump, known for is incautious language and offensive remarks, disparaged Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, in an interview with ABC. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,’ Trump said, describing Ms. Khan, a grieving mother. “She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
When the candidate had an opportunity to pay homage to a deceased solider and his family, he instead felt compelled to analyze Ghazala Khan’s behavior in a baffling display of narcissism and condescension. Ms. Khan, in turn, wrote an op-ed, explaining that she could not speak because merely looking at photos of her son is such an intolerable act that it brings her to tears.
Trump’s lack of empathy has brought widespread condemnation, including from his fellow Republicans. John McCain – a US prisoner of war, Senator, and one-time GOP presidential candidate – released a statement condemning Trump:
In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States – to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.
Sally Bradshaw – a Republican strategist and co-author of the Republican Party’s “autopsy report” following the 2012 elections – has officially left the GOP over Trump’s response to Khan’s speech, stating that:
Donald Trump belittled a woman who gave birth to a son who died fighting for the United States. If anything, that reinforced my decision to become an independent voter. I’ve been considering the switch for months. Ultimately, I could not abide the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and his complete lack of principles and conservative philosophy,
As the gaffes pile up, Trump’s ability to safely navigate alliances within the GOP establishment seems increasingly limited. His sheer disdain for political norms – while endearing to his fringe base – has officially steered into hitherto unknown territory. As John Oliver expressed well on his show Last Week Tonight, when he discussed the dumbfounding quality of Trump’s injudicious remarks:
Honestly, the main takeaway from these two weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist, that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities – and I genuinely did not think that was a part of the job that someone could be bad at.
(John Oliver discussed Trump’s dumbfounding comments to the Khan family.)
Sobering and serious words from a comedian more prone to using sarcasm and ridicule to make his points. The haunting prospect of a Trump presidency appears to weigh heavily on Oliver, as it has begun to do so for so many others in the public arena.