Donald Trump’s unfamiliarity with the ways of politics is both a strength and a hindrance. In one way, his outsider status is exactly what attracted voters to him in the primaries. His tone and temperament were like nothing we’d ever seen before in American politics. At a time when conservatives were sick to death of Republicans who sat at the time throne of political correctness as liberals, Trump was a breath of fresh air.
On the other hand, Trump’s naiveté allows Hillary Clinton to bait him into a fight he would be better off avoiding. That’s exactly what she did last week when she threw Khizr Khan and his wife on stage at the Democratic National Convention. Khan, whose son was an Army captain killed in Iraq, made a memorable speech blasting Trump for his views on Muslims. It was pure political theater, but it made an impact. And that impact has only been strengthened by Trump’s inability to let sleeping dogs lie.
Over the last few days, Trump has defended himself against Khan’s “vicious attacks” by musing that if it weren’t for strict Muslim doctrine, his wife might have had a few words to say on stage as well. This not only allowed Khan’s wife to speak out and prove him wrong, it has inspired every Republican politician with access to a microphone to launch another round of criticism at the nominee.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents,” said Sen. John McCain. “He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States – to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
Unlike Trump, McCain (and Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and other critics) fully understand what’s happening here. They know Hillary set a trap, and they watched as Trump fell into it. Instead of offering their counsel, they are busy covering their own asses. They get to look like the good guys, when in reality they’re just playing the same old political game we’ve been watching for years.
Trump’s Muslim ban has nothing to do with Capt. Khan. Trump has never suggested that Muslims be permanently barred from the U.S., and he has certainly never advocated deporting Muslim-American citizens. If voters think his reaction to Khan’s comments speak to his temperament, fine, but let’s not ignore the fact that this was exactly what Hillary Clinton wanted to happen. Does that excuse it? Maybe not. But before we throw our nominee to the wolves, why don’t we at least stop and recognize exactly what’s going on.