If you had July 18th in the pool for when Trump self-destructed, collect your winnings:
Donald Trump ignited a political firestorm Saturday by questioning whether Sen. John McCain — who spent over five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War — is a war hero.
By mid-afternoon, Trump tried to walk back his blunder on Twitter, saying “captured or not, all our soldiers are heroes!”
But his attempt at damage control seemed unlikely to diminish the anger his remarks had caused. They provoked an immediate outcry from his 2016 presidential rivals and the Republican National Committee, which has expressed concern about the impact his controversial remarks on immigration have had on the GOP brand.
The controversy began early Saturday afternoon, when Trump, speaking at a question-and-answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, commented on McCain, with whom he’s recently feuded over illegal immigration.
“He is not a war hero,” Trump told pollster Frank Luntz, who was hosting the session.
“He is a war hero,” Luntz interjected.
“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said, cutting him off. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured. OK, you can have — I believe perhaps he is a war hero.”
Let’s review John McCain’s record here. When we got into Vietnam, McCain requested a combat assignment. While on the Forrestal, he barely escaped with his life during the Forrestal fire and was injured trying to save another pilot. He then volunteered for combat duty again, during which he was shot down and captured.
“Shot down and captured” is a nice word for breaking both arms and a leg, being beaten by Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, bayoneted and put into the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He refused early release (the Vietnamese wanted to use his release for propaganda), which resulted in more torture.
No one — not even McCain’s harshest critics — questions that he was a war hero, both before his capture and especially during it. Trump, who appears to have received at least five deferments, including a medical one, should not be surprised with how people are reacting.
This is the problem with having a Presidential candidate who “says what he thinks”. Politics is the art of saying what you think without pissing off half the country. You frequently have to against what the majority of Americans want. If you look at some of our best Presidents — like Reagan — they had a way of expressing their point of view while not driving away the other party. They had a way of negotiating with foreign leaders while not driving them from the table. It’s a skill and a critical one. And I’ve seen no evidence that Trump has it.
I’m open a brash interloper who shakes things up. Hell, I’ve been a big fan of the Pauls for a while. I’m even a fan of third party candidates. I don’t think our budget would have gotten balanced in the 90’s if not for the Perot insurgency. But what is the issue that Trump’s trying to make noise about? Immigration? The economy? The deficit? Anything other than himself? Rand Paul is trying to open the party to young people and minorities. Marco Rubio has been trying to expand the party’s appeal to the middle and working class. Both of these men have done a good job this year of stating their views without driving anyone away. Who exactly is Trump trying to open the party to?
Trump won’t get the nomination, obviously. Despite “leading the polls” (i.e, drawing 17% in a big field based on name recognition), his negatives among the Republican party are off the charts. But the longer he is sucking up the oxygen in the room, the more likely it is that the Republicans establishment will panic and go with an ultra-safe candidate like Jeb Bush. And indeed, Jeb is getting the lion’s share of contributions right now.
I really hope this is the end of Trump’s publicity stunt, but I doubt it. He’s getting too much attention from the wing of the party that has long been dissatisfied with the leadership. It tells you how disaffected they are that they support someone like this:
In public statements, he has advocated government healthcare, a woman’s right to an abortion, an assault weapons ban, and paying off the national debt by forcing rich people to forfeit 14.25 percent of their total wealth. When the man married his third wife, he invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to the wedding, and he has given many thousands to their political campaigns and their foundation. He’s donated many thousands more that helped elect Democrats to the Senate and the House. And George W. Bush was “maybe the worst president in the history of this country,” the man said in 2008. “He was so incompetent, so bad, so evil.”
Look, I understand the frustration a lot of people have the GOP, especially on issues like immigration .We have a lot of problems right now that need to addressed: big future deficits, big current deficits, the bill coming due for Obamacare, a broken immigration system, a broken justice system, Russia rattling the saber, a brewing Sunni-Shia War in the Middle East. I like the idea of supporting an insurgent candidate but Trump is not that candidate. He’s a circus freak biting the heads of chickens. And his comments on John McCain are just the wool coming off of a few million eyes.