Presidential temperament, or not

James Taranto brings us yet another head-shaking moment from The Donald, though with more insight:

“Yes, I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president,” the Hill quotes Barack Obama as saying today. “I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it.” The president also asked top Republicans rhetorically: “Why are you still endorsing him?”

Obama’s confrontational electioneering, unusual for a president not seeking re-election, is part of the fallout from last week’s Democratic National Convention speech by Khizr Khan, a Muslim Pakistani-American whose Emirati-born son, Humayun Khan, a captain in the U.S. Army, was killed in combat in Iraq 12 years ago. Peggy Noonan noted the Khan speech in her column, filed late Thursday night:

The [convention’s] most electric line did not come from a politician. . . . Mr. Khan said to Mr. Trump, who did not serve in the military: “You have sacrificed nothing.” The crowd roared to its feet at those four damning words.

The Trump campaign responded as follows:

Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American.

Captain Khan gave his life to defend our country in the global war on terror. Due to the disastrous decisions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a once stable Middle East has now been overrun by ISIS. This must not stand.

By suspending immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, rebuilding our military, defeating ISIS at its source and projecting strength on the global stage, we will reduce the likelihood that other American families will face the enduring heartbreak of the Khan family.

Donald Trump will support our military and their families and we will defeat the enemies of our freedom.

Unfortunately for Trump, that response—in the form of a “Statement From Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, Governor Mike Pence”—did not come until Sunday evening, after Trump had spent three days acting like a stupid jerk. Politico’s Zachary Karabell:

Trump, as is his wont whenever he is criticized, fired back at the Khans. In an interview, he oddly questioned why Ghazala Khan [Khizr Khan’s wife] said nothing during the speech and implied that she may have not have been allowed to speak by her husband—a double hit on Muslims and women that only made Trump look worse when the mother later explained she simply couldn’t speak of her son Humayun without breaking down.

Then Trump dug his own hole deeper. Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos what sacrifices he, Trump, has made for his country, the GOP candidate appeared to compare Humayun Khan’s supreme sacrifice to . . . job creation. “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs,” Trump said. With some incredulity, Stephanopoulos responded: “Those are sacrifices?” Trump casually answered: “Oh sure, I think they’re sacrifices. I think when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things. Even in military, I mean I was very responsible, along with a group of people, for getting the Vietnam memorial in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for.”

Khan’s speech not only successfully baited Trump into playing the fool; it gave Nevertrumps an opportunity to feel good about themselves. We noticed this Sunday tweet from Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations: “Either you stand with Khizr & Ghazala Khan or Donald Trump. No middle ground. Choose your side. I’m with #KhizrKhan.” But neither Khan is running for president. The actual choice is between Mrs. Clinton and Trump, but by equivocating in this way, Boot transfers his support for Mrs. Clinton to a sympathetic figure.

As for “no middle ground,” that isn’t even true in the election, as one does have the option of abstaining or voting third-party. It certainly isn’t true of the Trump-Khan dustup. We think Trump has handled it appallingly, but we also find plenty of fault with the Democrat-media narrative that has arisen around it.

Take Khan’s j’accuse, “You have sacrificed nothing,” and Stephanopoulos’s question, “What sacrifice have you made for your country?” Do these not apply equally well to Mrs. Clinton? She didn’t serve in the military, nor did her husband (a fact Republicans hoped vainly would work against him in 1992), and their daughter has lived quite a pampered life. As David French—an Army Reserve major, Iraq veteran and Nevertrump stalwart—observes:

Hillary Clinton hasn’t sacrificed—she’s lived the progressive dream. And she’s certainly not a “public servant”—she’s a cynical, grasping, and ambitious politician. Her accomplishments are meager, and her one guiding star is her own self-advancement.

A Daily Beast column Saturday carried the headline “Chicken Hawk Trump Mocks Captain Khan’s Mother.” We’ve heard that epithet before, but isn’t hawkishness a necessary element? Trump is running as the less hawkish candidate, faulting Mrs. Clinton for voting in favor of the Iraq war and pushing for the 2011 Libya intervention.

During his DNC speech, Khan cited Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration (on which he seems to have equivocated of late, as in the Pence statement above) and answered as follows:

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

But as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York and National Review’s Andy McCarthypoint out—and as we explained back in December, when Trump first put the idea forward—the Constitution places almost no limit on Congress’s power to regulate immigration, and none at all on its power to control entry of unadmitted nonresident aliens. The legal term of art is the plenary power doctrine.

As NR’s Jim Geraghty points out, the media are highly selective in their treatment of grieving parents:

Hey, remember when the first night of the Republican convention featured Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of the Americans slain in Benghazi? Remember how her speech was called a “cynical exploitation of grief”? Or the “unabashed exploitation of private people’s grief” or “theweaponization of grief”? Remember how she “ruined the evening”? How it was, “a spectacle so offensive, it was hard to even comprehend”? How some liberal commentators said, “Mrs. Smith was really most interested in drinking blood rather than healing”? How her speech represented an “early dip into the gutter”? Remember how a GQ writer publicly expressed a desire to beat her to death?

As is often the case, Trump’s outrageous behavior finds a precedent in his critics’ behavior—in this case, their behavior just the week before.

To be sure, the critics Geraghty cites are all journalists; none of them are seeking to become president. But do you remember John Kerry?

He launched his public career in 1971 by testifying to a series of outrageous slanders against American servicemen. Subsequently he was elected lieutenant governor of, and U.S. senator from, Massachusetts. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, when he presented himself as a war hero.

Kerry has never apologized for his calumnies against his fellow Vietnam veterans, which the liberal media played down as he was pursuing the Democratic nomination. When a group of vets eventually called him out on it, Democrats and journalists smeared them.

In 2013 Kerry left the Senate after the president nominated him as secretary of state. If by Obama’s standards Trump is unfit to serve because of his obnoxious comments, how is Kerry fit?

 

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