How Badly Will Trump's Toxicity Poison Down-Ballot Races For Republican Candidates?
This morning, New York's Richard Hanna became the first Republican congressman to publicly announce he's actually voting for Hillary Clinton, telling his constituents that Trump is "unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country." It's politically safe for him; he's retiring in January. Yesterday you read McCain's stern rebuke of Trump's disgusting attacks on the grieving parents of an American captain killed in Iraq protecting his men. Trump's "remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party," said McCain, obviously sincere in his contempt for the pile of vomit his party nominated to be president. But not willing to withdraw his endorsement. For all his blather about standing on principle, McCain-- like most of the elected officials in his party-- are using electoral calculus to determine how fall they're willing to distance themselves from Trump. In other words, for McCain, it's a matter of who many Republican neanderthals will bail on him versus how many independents and moderates will be attracted to him if he unendorsed the Trumpanzee.
Scott Walker was typical of the Republican cowards who wanted disassociate themselves from Trumpist derangement without getting the Trumpist mob angry at them. Even safely behind the walls of the Koch retreat in Colorado Springs over the weekend, Walker wimpered and shook in terror about what to say. "To me, I just think about it, from my point of view, just from a personal, not even a political level. I hold Gold Star families in such reverence. They've earned our respect. I would never, I don't care what they say, you'll never hear me question anything about a Gold Star family. I've gone to too many funerals. I've met too many families and it's just...what they've sacrificed is unbelievable." But he made clear his feelings are just personal and that Donald Trump is still the candidate he urges Cheeseheads to vote for. He's promised to campaign with him in Wisconsin this fall.
A week from today, is primary day in Wisconsin. Speaker Paul Ryan has to win reelection in his own district, just like everyone else in Congress-- and he has a feisty primary challenge from the far right, a Trumpist crackpot named Paul Nehlen. Nehlen can't beat Trump... UNLESS Democrats in southeast Wisconsin take advantage of Wisconsin's open primary law, request a Republican ballot and vote to kick Ryan out of Congress. (The Democratic primary in Wisconsin today is of no consequence and no one should waste their vote on it.) Democratic voters in Racine, Janesville, Kenosha, Burlington,Muskego, Oak Creek and the other suburbs south of Milwaukee can leave the House Republicans in utter chaos but defeating Ryan.
Ryan's statement about Trump's jihad against the Khan family left out the one thing that could have saved him from self-imposed infamy: a withdrawal of his endorsement of Trump-- which has including fundraising on Trump's behalf and a campaign of smears and innuendos against Hillary Clinton. "America's greatness," wrote Ryan's p.r. guy, "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." Almost makes Ryan sound like a good American... until you realize he's still pushing Trump.
As Greg Sargent said in his Post column yesterday, "If Republicans don’t break off their support for Trump’s candidacy now, they run the risk of having no choice but to do so after Trump sinks even further into wretchedness and depravity, to a point of true no return. (Presumably there is such a point.) At that juncture, their move will look unprincipled and desperate, leaving them stained-- perhaps irrevocably-- with their previous willingness to stick by him during much of his descent, and depriving their break with him of whatever moral force it might have had if done earlier. As some Republicans are already remarking, Trump’s battle with the Khan family makes it harder and harder to avoid acknowledging the possibility that we really have no idea how low Trump will sink. After Khizr Khan, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq, criticized Trump from the stage of the Democratic convention last week, Trump responded by asking why his wife had stood by silently, unleashing a torrent of criticism from lawmakers in both parties and setting the stage for another round of media appearance by the Khans, in which they brutally tore into Trump’s lack of empathy and temperamental unfitness for the presidency... As Peter Wehner, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, put it: 'Trump is a man of sadistic cruelty. With him there’s no bottom.' If this is right, and Trump sinks even lower, leaving no alternative but to cut him loose, Republicans such as Ryan will have done so not in defense of their own principles, but because events forced them to."
The battle against the Khan family-- which now includes Trump's closest associates calling Khizr Khan a terrorist agent and claiming his decorated dead son, Captain Humayun Khan, may have been killing Christian soldiers-- is not going Trump's way. His "usual political tool kit has appeared to fail him. He earned no reprieve with his complaints that Mr. Khan had been unfair to him; on Sunday morning, he claimed on Twitter that Mr. Khan had 'viciously attacked' him. Mr. Trump and his advisers tried repeatedly to change the subject to Islamic terrorism, to no avail... Trump appeared to be caught on Sunday in one of the biggest crises of his campaign, rivaling the uproar in June after he suggested a federal judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel, was biased because of his Mexican heritage. By going after a military family and trafficking in religious stereotypes, Mr. Trump once again breached multiple norms of American politics, redoubling pressure on his fellow Republicans to choose between defending his remarks or breaking publicly with their nominee.
Even usually Republican-leaning Veterans of Foreign Wars was not happy with this latest manifestation of Trumpism. VFW Commander-in-Chief Brian Duffy flipped out at Trump's grotesque behavior: "Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression. There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed. Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard."
Sweaty Little Marco Rubio has been hiding under his bed and ignoring Florida reporters asking him to comment on Trump's crackpot attack on the Khan family. Rubio would rather voters forget when he said Trump is "unfit to be commander in chief" and Rubio's most recent on-the-record comment on Trump-- after the smear campaign against the Khan family began-- was "We have got to come together as a party. We cannot lose to Hillary Clinton. We cannot lose the White House. We have to make sure that Donald wins this election." The newest CNN poll shows 61% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump. Rubio better hope that doesn't wash off on him! That's a far cry from what John Kasich-- who Trump has threatened to attack with a $20 million SuperPAC-- had to say: "There's only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect. Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family."
Alan Grayson, who is challenging Rubio for the Florida Senate seat up in November had just tweeted that after 14 cases of the Zika virus showed up in Florida the GOP plan still amounts to "Don't get bit," when Rubio scrambled to beg Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to call a special session of Congress. They're both studiously ignoring him, of course. I asked Grayson what he thought about Rubio's refusal to disavow the Trumpanzee and his outrageous attack on the Khan family. He didn't seem the least bit surprised that Rubio is ignoring everything he discovered about Trump during the primary. "Rubio," he told me, "seems to think that he's some kind of foreign policy 'expert' because he believes that he can see Cuba from his porch."
Duwayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature is taking on devoted Trump ally Peter King on the Long Island South Shore district where King has been protected from Democratic opponents by Steve Israel. Even though Israel, a notorious racist who undermines African-American candidates, has blacklisted DuWayne in the DCCC, his community service and his distinguished military career are trumping Israel's craven and shameful support for King. This morning Gregory told me that "Trump's use of religion to attack the Khan family is more evidence of his unfitness for the highest office in our land. Democrats and Republicans alike who saw this unseemly attack on this Gold Star family rebuked Trump's comments. Peter King has been silent and is implicitly endorsing this unforgivable behavior. King's outrageous statement that 'Muslims are not Americans in this war on Terrorism,' lacks the same decency and respect for the ultimate sacrifice Muslims are making in this fight."
Another military veteran who won his congressional primary and is being ignored by the DCCC, is Tom Wakely, who is taking on entrench Trumpist Lamar Smith in the Texas district that stretches from downtown Austin into San Antonio. We knew he would be furious over Trump's remarks over the Khan family and when we called him today he told us that ""Lamar Smith has had nothing to say this election cycle with the exception of throwing heaps of praise on Donald Trump. With the amount of veterans in our community, it's disgusting that we have yet to see a statement from Smith regarding this matter. In this case, coming from a U.S. Air Force veteran myself, the silence is absolutely deafening. It was virtually unconscionable in the first place that Congressman Smith would endorse Trump but now this? No word whatsoever on the matter? Local veterans groups are incensed with Lamar essentially endorsing the trashing of a Gold Star family. So which is better? Assuming Lamar Smith doesn't care enough about his constituents to make a statement condemning this behavior or assuming Lamar Smith agrees with Trump? Fort Sam Houston is in our district and the folks living on base vote with their hearts and minds, both things Lamar Smith is incapable of winning the longer he stays silent on this matter. He'd rather let Donald Trump throw military veterans under the bus than to exhibit a shred of dignity by repudiating this circus act. Maybe it's time we start questioning what Trump has offered Smith."
Up in Pennsylvania, in the suburbs south and west of Philly, Mary Ellen Balchunis isn't a military vet but her anger towards Trump and his allies was just as palpable as DuWayne's and Tom's. "As the Democratic nominee for Congress the 7th district, against Congressman Pat Meehan, I sat humbled in the stands at the Democratic National Convention watching the gold star family members of Muslim-American hero Captain Humayun Khan. I was so impressed by how articulate and passionate the Captain's father was and how poised the Captain's mother was. As a mother, I don't know if I could have been as strong. As a Political Science Professor who goes through the U.S. Constitution in detail with my students, I really appreciated when Mr. Khan asked Mr. Trump if he read the Constitution. When Mr. Trump hears "We The People...", he interprets it as we the rich, white men of America. I agree with Mr. Khan that Mr. Trump does not know what sacrifice is. Donald Trump owes this Gold Star family an apology, and he owes them and their son respect for his ultimate sacrifice. As a Political Scientist, I watch people vote against their own interest, election after election. I fear that this election could be one of the worst for this. We have seen evidence that Mr. Trump disparages Muslims, women, and the disabled. He doesn't pay all his contractors. He doesn't pay taxes, and he declares bankcruptcy over and over again. Like Leona Hemsley, Trump believes that only 'the little people' pay taxes. If people think that they are struggling now, they will be really struggling under a Trump Administration. There won't even be a 'Trickle Down.' Mr. Khan is right. Donald Trump does not have empathy and will not be a good leader. My opponent, Pat Meehan, has not denounced any of Trump's outrageous comments, especially his latest insensitive comments. In fact, Mr. Meehan has said: 'I suspect that we're all going to end up supporting the Republican ticket.'"
In a direct appeal to voters inclined to support Mr. Trump, Mr. Khan pleaded with them to reject his brand of politics.One Republican who has senselessly glued himself to Trump is South Florida-based Mario Diaz-Baplart. And he doesn't seem to understand the hard Trump is doing to himself-- and to his GOP allies-- with his unpatriotic screeds against the Khan family. Dr. Alina Valdes, the progressive Democrat running against Diaz-Baplart seemed stunned by Trump's response to the Khans. "No matter my party affiliation, Donald Trump is a vile human being who could never have my support," she told us. And she didn't stop there. "By agreeing to campaign and vote for him as the Republican nominee, Mr. Diaz-Balart has shown yet again that his moral compass is in line with the presidential nominee for his party. It was not enough when Trump trashed his own people, Latinos, and went on to women, racial and ethnic groups, religions, and just about anyone and anything that does not look like him or his family. Herr Trump reminds me of Hitler in what he says and what he represents and to think that a Cuban American representing a district comprised of 70% Hispanics boggles the mind with his support of Trump. Now, Trump has sunk to the lowest level any human could do by criticizing a military Gold Star family who has paid the ultimate price in support of this country, their country, because they happen to be of the Muslim faith. Their son sacrificed all, his life, in support of the America that gave him and his family the opportunity to live their dream and yet Herr Trump dares to compare the sacrifices he has made by cheating and swindling people for profit, by outsourcing jobs and deny that very dream to others, to the Khan’s ultimate sacrifice in the loss of their son. His children are safe and well protected by the sacrifices others have made and yet Diaz-Balart says nothing and worse, continues to support this shell of a human being because they happen to be registered in the same party. I, for one, see through this sham and cannot allow either of these men to represent the America that gave me, as a Cuban immigrant, the opportunity to excel in this country, to become the first physician in my family and serve the uninsured, homeless, and poor for over 30 years. The choice to run against Mr. Diaz-Balart in Florida's 25th congressional district stems from this very lack of moral character I see in both of these men. It is time to get to work FOR ALL THE PEOPLE and not just those who can pay to play. Those very same people I have served during my career as a physician, a scientist, and an educator, need someone who understands their needs… health care for all, living wage jobs with a future, security in their senior years, immigration reform with a path to citizenship, to name a few. I will listen to the people of this district and not to those who pad Diaz-Balart's campaign account to vote for their greed and avarice. Mr. and Mrs. Khan and many like them will have a true champion in Congress. It is time to take the trash out and elect decent people with compassion and empathy."
Addressing “patriotic Americans that would probably vote for Donald Trump,” Mr. Khan said, “I appeal to them not to vote for hatred, not to vote for fear-mongering. Vote for unity. Vote for the goodness of this country.”
And Ms. Khan, in an opinion article published in the Washington Post, rebuked Mr. Trump for suggesting earlier in the weekend that she had not been permitted to speak at the Democratic convention. Ms. Khan said she did not speak because she did not believe she could remain composed while talking about her son.
“All the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” Ms. Khan wrote, using the term for surviving family members of those killed in war. “Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”
Ms. Khan said Mr. Trump was “ignorant” of Islam and criticized him for offering his business career as evidence that he had sacrificed for his country. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices,” Ms. Khan said. “He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”
It is too soon to say how severe the damage to Mr. Trump might be, but the clash has already entangled him in a self-destructive, dayslong argument with sympathetic accusers who are portraying him as a person of unredeemable callousness. Still, he has proved remarkably resilient, getting past controversies that might have sunk other candidates.
Several prominent Republicans have condemned Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khans, calling his behavior outside the bounds of political discourse. But Republican congressional leaders responded cautiously to Mr. Trump. Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell released statements stressing their admiration for the Khan family; Mr. McConnell called Capt. Humayun Khan an “American hero.” And both said they firmly opposed banning Muslim immigration, though neither mentioned Mr. Trump, whom they have endorsed, by name.
...The Republican vice-presidential nominee, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, appears to be in a particularly awkward position in the uproar. His son is a Marine, a fact he mentions frequently. Mr. Pence’s ability to navigate a racially charged argument between Mr. Trump and a Gold Star family is emerging as his first difficult test as Mr. Trump’s running mate.
For most of the weekend, Mr. Pence was silent. His aides referred inquiries to Mr. Trump’s staff, and his lone public comment was a Twitter post about getting his hair cut in Indianapolis.
Late Sunday, Mr. Pence issued a statement sidestepping Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Khans. He expressed appreciation for the family’s sacrifice and reiterated his support for blocking immigration “from countries that have been compromised by terrorism.”
Gold Star families-- who have collectively lost 23 American fighting men in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea-- penned an open letter to Trump backing up the Khan family and demanding an apology, a word the Trumpanzee never seems to have learned. "Ours is a sacrifice," they wrote, "we would never want you to know."
Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother's pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.
You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost.
You are minimizing the risk our service members make for all of us.
This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency. That kind decency you mock as "political correctness."
We feel we must speak out and demand you apologize to the Khans, to all Gold Star families, and to all Americans for your offensive, and frankly anti-American, comments.
Labels: 2016 congressional races, 2016 presidential race, Alan Grayson, DuWayne Gregory, John Oliver, Long Island, Marco Rubio, Mary Ellen Balchunis, Paul Ryan, Peter King, Tom Wakely, toxicity of Donald Trump