Brian Beutler of the New Republic calls out Republican leaders for their "weak-kneed response" to Trump's trashing the Kahn family, a Gold Star family who lost their son in Iraq.
Donald Trump’s increasingly grotesque behavior is not just the defining aspect of his presidential campaign, it’s an ongoing test of character for the elected Republicans who have endorsed him.
The stakes of that test reached a new plateau when Trump attacked the family of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, after his parents’ appearance at the Democratic convention. Khizr Khan’s Thursday speech has, somewhat unexpectedly, become the most iconic moment of either convention, his searing indictment of Trump—“you have sacrificed nothing, and no one”—compared to the immortal words that helped unravel McCarthyism: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Trump’s response was an offensive non-sequitur intended to degrade and dismiss his victims and enemies. In interviews with The New York Times and ABC News, he mocked Khan’s faith with the suggestion that Khan had forbidden his wife, who stood silently by his side on the stage, from speaking in public. This was horrifying enough, but the thing that made it vintage Trump was that it was premised on a lie. After the convention, but before Trump had gone on the attack, Ghazala Khan had spoken freely, through incredible grief, in an interview with MSNBC. “I told him, ‘don’t be a hero, go safely and come back as my son.’ He came back as a hero.”
The reaction from Trump’s GOP enablers tracked their reaction to nearly every Trump controversy. As usual, electorally vulnerable Republicans condemned Trump unequivocally, while party leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan contradicted his words only, as if they’d been uttered by a disembodied voice, rather than by the standard bearer of their party. None of them revised their view that Trump should be the next president.
By failing to repudiate Trump, Ryan and McConnell have revealed themselves to be pliant men—figureheads rather than stewards of their party. As such, the surprise would be if they finally did reach a breaking point and took a definitive stand against Trump. That is only likely to happen, though, if Trump’s antics damage him so badly that supporting him becomes more harmful to the GOP’s interests than opposing him. But about 40 percent of the country, and nearly 90 percent of self-identified Republicans, want Trump to win the presidency. Trump’s offenses to decency and democratic norms will eventually reach the equivalent of a 450-volt shock, and elected Republicans will find a way to justify directing it right at the heart of American democracy.
Sen. John McCain should be added to this list. These so-called Republican leaders take exception to Trump's misdeeds but then do nothing. Condemning Trump "unequivocally" is insincere, ineffective, and inadequate. How can they be against what Trump says but then continue to support him for president?