What People are Missing About the Khan/Trump Feud

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In case you missed how this started, a man named Khizr Khan spoke at the DNC. It’s only a six minute speech, so I’d invite you to take the time to watch it all if you have the time.

Trump fired back Friday in an interview with George Stephanoloplis that can be seen below You may watch the whole thing, but the piece relevant to this post starts at 14:30.

Since Trump’s response there has been a boatload of coverage coming in from every media outlet but I need to make a point I don’t think is being understood in the matter. This individual incident won’t sway a single vote in the presidential election. I purposefully loaded that sentence with two key qualifiers though, so let’s take a look at those.

“This individual incident”

Odds are that Trump attacking a Muslim family isn’t going to shock anyone. His supporters already agreed with him on that issue, and his detractors already saw it as a huge flaw. You might think attacking the family of a fallen soldier might be a step too far, but don’t forget what Trump has already said about the military and veterans while suffering virtually no setback in the polls.

On POW and GOP Senator John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” [1]

On ordering the military to follow orders that are in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions by killing unarmed noncombatants, “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me.”[2] That remark drew sharp criticism from CIA Director Hayden who questioned how Trump could be Commander in Chief without understanding the military is expected to disobey immoral and illegal orders.

Trump even had a small, by his standards, scandal regarding his claims that he’d given money to charities for veterans and whether or not he’d actually given the groups the money he claimed. [3]

Yet none of this has moved the needle much as far as his support goes, so I don’t imagine attacking a Gold Star family is going to break that trend. But this incident does demonstrate something else that could be a problem down the line for Trump. He is completely unable to respond to criticism in a rational and, more importantly, targeted manner.

Plenty of people have pointed out that Stephanopolous really did force the issue and that Trump may have laid low on this one on his own. I would suggest it’s the job of the interviewer to force the issue, but either way the key is in the way Trump responded. Trump didn’t just address the criticism he made it personal with not just the person doing the criticizing, but also their family.

Mr. Khan’s wife stood nearby and never said a word during the speech. Trump made it a point in his response to attack her as well. The reason this matters is because one thing that often supersedes political allegiances is going after family. I maintain a major reason Cruz didn’t endorse Trump is because of the attacks Trump made on Cruz’s wife. Attacking the family of a Muslim fallen soldier might not end up meaning anything, but if Trump doesn’t understand that there are people who are off limits politically, he’s going to find himself with no allies left while he’s running for the oval office.

“In the presidential election”

Since Trump’s remarks went public, the Khans did an interview in which they specifically called for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he called, “leaders and patriots,” to denounce Trump’s comments. Each has released a brief statement:

McConnell said, “All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values”

Ryan said, “America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.” [4]

Notice what’s missing from both of those statements? Any mention of Trump. The media has definitely noticed and has been asking for more specifics from both of them. This is a big key to this election I’ve been trying to point out for a while. Every time Trump creates a controversy, it’s not just him that has to be Mr. Teflon, it’s everyone running lower on the ticket. The 24 GOP senators running for reelection will hardly be able to run their own campaigns without being stopped every third day to be asked how they feel about Trump’s latest comments. Being asked to choose between supporting the military and supporting their party’s nominee is not a situation they want to be in. Will this impact votes in the presidential election? Likely not, but as far as the House and Senate are concerned?

If there’s one thing the Democrats have learned under Obama, it’s just how empty a victory with the executive branch can be if it’s coupled with a loss in the legislative branch. Trump needs to stop forcing his fellow Republicans into press conferences entirely focused on Trump or else he’s going to find himself with no allies left if he’s in the oval office.

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