Once again, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has found himself the victim of another self-inflicted wound. This time Trump’s faux pas is his attack on Khizr Khan, the father of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq saving his unit from a car bomb.
For that heroic act, Humayun Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart.
The dust-up between the elder Khan and Trump began at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week when Khan criticized the GOP nominee for his proposed temporary Muslim ban. Khan argued it was unconstitutional and said if such a ban were already in place, his son would not have been able to serve in the Army because he was born in the United Arab Emirates.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” he said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will — I will gladly lend you my copy.”
Rather than take the high road, Trump allowed himself to be caught in the trap laid by the Democrats, taking a jab at Khan and his wife and then setting off a feeding frenzy in the media.
To be fair, Khizr Khan’s speech was a political speech, which is generally regarded fair game for criticism. But Trump should have just let it go.
It was as if the Democrats saw the speech Patricia Smith — the mother of Sean Smith, who died in the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — delivered at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland two weeks ago and determined they needed their own version of the grieving parent. In her speech, Smith was highly critical of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, going so far as to call for her imprisonment.
“Donald Trump is everything Hillary Clinton is not,” Smith said. “He is blunt, direct and strong. He speaks his mind and his heart. And when it comes to the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism, he will not hesitate to kill the terrorists who threaten American lives. He will make America stronger, not weaker. This entire campaign comes down to a single question: If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency? That’s right. Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.”
If it is indeed the case that those behind the scenes in the Clinton campaign decided they needed a counter-narrative to Smith and employed Khan to provide it, then we have reach peak cynicism in our presidential politics.
This is the frustration a lot of Republicans have with Trump. For a guy who desperately needs to bring the party together, he continuously offers the “Never Trumpers” in the GOP more reasons not to get on the bandwagon.
Granted, Clinton has her own fair share of obstacles to overcome, but did she create more turmoil and an unnecessary distraction by going out and criticizing Patricia Smith following her RNC speech? No, she didn’t, and maybe that’s a lesson Trump should learn. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, attacking a Gold Star family is a bad idea.
This controversy probably won’t sway very many voters one way or another. Most of the people that pay attention to the day-to-day, blow-by-blow of this election have made up their minds who they are going to support.
However, it does distract from things that could sway a few votes one way or another. Every time Khizr Khan and his wife are on cable news giving an interview, that’s time taken away from any of the dozens of things Hillary Clinton has hanging over her head — Benghazi, email scandal, allegations of Clinton Foundation corruption, receiving preferential treatment from the Democratic National Committee.
Mobile’s Jeff Sessions had Trump’s back over the weekend by rejecting the notion that Trump had a “black soul.” And to Sessions’ credit, he handled it in the way Trump should have in the first place — by making it about policy rather than personal.
“I don’t think anybody that says we ought to slow down and be more careful about bringing in immigrants from countries that have terrorist tendencies and can’t be vetted properly — I don’t believe that’s a person who lacks a soul,” Sessions told CNN. “In fact, millions of Americans, a majority of Americans, favor that kind of policy with regard to immigration from countries that have a history of terrorism.”
Traditionally in presidential campaigns the candidate stays above the fray and has surrogates going out and doing the so-called dirty work. Part of Trump’s appeal has been that he has shown a willingness to do it himself.
But until this point, it has been a much different scenario for Trump. He’s been up against other Republicans, who largely receive different treatment by the media. GOP-on-GOP destruction does not require hype from the media because it pretty much speaks for itself.
Now that it’s Democrat versus Republican, and the Democrats are willing to roll out the parents of a slain soldier to score political points, it’s probably time to rethink his strategy.