On Monday, John McCain became the first Republican leader to directly and unmistakably condemn Donald Trump’s attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan. The Khans took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on its final day just before Hillary Clinton accepted the party’s nomination. Khizr Khan’s speech is widely said to be the most powerful moment of the DNC.
Donald Trump has since unleashed and all out, frontal attack against the Khans not only going after Mr. Khan for speaking out, but also going after Mrs. Khan for keeping her silence. As much as Khan’s comments served as a lightning bolt for Democrats, Trump’s comments have started a firestorm and a backlash that is yet unparalleled even for his controversial campaign.
What has been deafening has been the Republican leadership’s virtual radio silence on the issue and complete silence in speaking directly on Mr. Trump’s attacks.
John McCain became the first Republican leader to address Trump’s comments directly, delivering a stinging 600 plus word statement praising the Khans and their son, and condemning Trump. However, McCain’s comments are not surprising for three major reasons, among others.
First, Donald Trump famously went after John McCain’s war record early on in Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump said that McCain is not a war hero because he was captured and that he believed “the ones who didn’t get caught” are the heroes. That comment did not go well for Trump publicly, but also drove a wedge between the two men personally, as Trump clearly did not and does not understand the circumstances under which McCain was captured, and what he endured. Wherever one lands on the political spectrum, McCain’s credentials as a veteran are not subject to reasonable dispute.
Second, Donald Trump has been less than popular in Arizona, McCain’s state, and where McCain is fighting a re-election bid that has been very close so far. McCain has comfortably won each of his previous re-election campaigns. He has tried to distance himself from Trump and many of his “policies” while still vowing to vote for him. This was an opportunity to distance himself without any downside as Trump’s comments have come under very wide criticism.
Third, McCain has long championed veterans’ issues and serves as the long time chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. When Trump went after the family of a decorated fallen soldier, McCain had to speak, and he could hardly take Trump’s side. Additionally, he had no downside in condemning Trump’s comments as attacking a veteran is something that is not going to draw much praise from conservatives.
While it is commendable that John McCain broke the silence and spoke, doing so was not surprising by any means. McCain had to stand up and had to take the position he did.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Slant.