The firestorm Donald Trump created with his response to Khizr and Ghazala Khan’s statements about him is an eye opener. Unstable as he is, Trump cannot help himself when it comes to creating and raising stinks by making over-the-top provocative statements. That’s not news. What is news is the overwhelming revulsion felt by the American people of this one. A bridge too far? Maybe.
So far, Trump’s rants have only endeared him more to those who claim they merely love his outspokenness in taking on “political correctness” and the establishment. The question is whether that is the case. Are there more complex reasons as to why Trump supporters—apologists—are willing to ignore what is obvious to the rest of us? Is it because they secretly love him voicing their own bigotries and other “politically incorrect” notions?
With regard to his responses about the Kahns, nearly 70 percent of Americans consider him out of bounds. The difference? The Khan’s son, Capt. Humayun Kahn, gave his life for our country.
Major Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard (Ret.), Khan’s commanding officer at the time of his death, wrote in the Washington Post about Kahn’s death. He says Khan ran towards a “suspicious vehicle” approaching the gate of the camp in order to avoid killing the driver unnecessarily. It turns out the vehicle was on a suicide mission, but Khan wanted to be sure. Too late for him, he ordered his men to hit the dirt.
“Humayun died trying to save the lives of innocent Iraqis,” Pittard attests. “His brave effort to approach the vehicle probably saved American lives as well.”
Of late, there has been much print and words spoken about the death of outrage in America, that we have become so inured to fantastical, over-the-top statements we’re hardly startled by the really egregious. For no matter how shocking a statement might be, it will pale in comparison to the one next to come.
The blowback on Trump’s Kahn comments seemingly indicates the reports of the death of outrage might be premature. However, evidence suggests that not being the case for many Republicans. While that poll found nearly three-quarters of Americans disgusted by Trump’s words, only 41 percent of Republican respondents disapproved with 40 percent saying his comments were “in bounds.” That leaves 19 percent unsure.
Echoing that, Trump’s defamations and degradations of anyone who criticizes him, “treats him unfairly,” elicit not more than a tut-tut from the Republican leadership. For them it’s about party loyalty, about winning no matter how repugnant the message or the messenger.
Principled, self-respecting conservatives and Republicans, though. have divorced themselves from Trump and in some cases from the Republican Party itself.
“I am no politician,” says Pittard. “I have stayed away from politics my entire adult life. My family has been Republican ever since my maternal grandparents migrated from Jim Crow South Carolina to Philadelphia in the late 1920s. My grandmother voted for Herbert Hoover in 1928. Though I am a Republican, I have voted my conscience — for both Democrats and Republicans — for the past 32 years. I’m going to vote my conscience again this year.”
Columnist George Will who recently re-registered unaffiliated goes further.
“The nation is not immune to the lasting damage that is being done to it by Trump’s success in normalizing post-factual politics. It is being poisoned by the injection into its bloodstream of the cynicism required of those Republicans who persist in pretending that although Trump lies constantly and knows nothing, these blemishes do not disqualify him from being president.”
Again, the question is why. Why do otherwise objective, intelligent, and honest individuals deny the obvious and engage in what Will calls “post-factual politics”? Why do at least 40 percent of Republicans consider his assault on grieving, Gold Star parents as “in bounds”? Are they amoral, callous, or simply mean?
I want to think not. But if so, then what gives?
As is his wont, Will high-mindedly calls it “immunity through profusion.”
“He seems to understand that if you produce a steady stream of sufficiently stupefying statements, there will be no time to dwell on any one of them, and the net effect on the public will be numbness and ennui.”
CNN host Fareed Zakaria uses a more colloquial term for the phenomenon: “bullshit.”
Next week: the reasons.