Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”
Prominent Republicans Criticize Trump For Attacking Gold Star Khan Family
John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell Condemn Trump’s Attacks On The Khan Family. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke out against “Donald Trump’s attacks on a slain Muslim American soldier's parents,” ABC News reported, and “strongly defend[ed] the Khan family.” However, the lawmakers did not say they were revoking their endorsement of Trump. From the August 1 report:
John McCain is joining the chorus of Republicans condemning Donald Trump's attacks on a slain Muslim American soldier's parents, who made an emotional case against Trump's candidacy at the Democratic National Convention.
“Arizona is watching. It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” the Arizona senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee said in a statement. “While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”
Humayun Khan, a Muslim U.S. Army captain, was killed in a suicide car bombing in Iraq in 2004. His father, Khizr Khan, spoke out against Trump at the Democratic convention, with his wife, Ghazala Khan, standing by his side.
McCain's condemnation of Trump's remarks echoed sentiments expressed by Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan also issued statements strongly defending the Khan family.
“All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values,” McConnell wrote.
Ryan followed with a similar response. “America's greatness 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.” [ABCNews.com, 8/1/16]
Media Admonish McCain, Ryan, And McConnell For Disavowing Trump’s Comments While Still Endorsing Him
Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: Republican Leaders’ Continued Endorsements Of Trump Are “At Worst … Acts Of Cowardice.” Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie wrote that the statements had “no bite” because these Republican leaders were not “prepared to withdraw [their] endorsement[s] or add any conditions to [their] support.” Bouie added that “At best, these half-measures are a failure of political imagination” and “At worst, they are acts of cowardice.” From the August 1 article (emphasis original):
These are strong words from McCain, a former prisoner of war who won the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2008 presidential election. But you don’t have to look too carefully to see that something is missing from both this statement and those from Ryan and McConnell.
There’s no bite.
These statements have strong language, no doubt. But neither Ryan nor McConnell nor McCain is prepared to withdraw his endorsement or add any conditions to his support. The GOP’s nominee, their nominee, is railing against the parents of a dead soldier, and still they refuse to budge.
At best, these half-measures are a failure of political imagination, as dedicated partisans struggle to reconcile their commitment to the Republican Party as an institution with their obvious disgust with a nominee who rejects their ideals in favor of raw, bigoted appeals to an angry and embittered group of Americans. At worst, they are acts of cowardice.
Republican leaders will challenge Trump’s statements and hope that he “pivots” to a more sober-minded approach. But they won’t undermine him in ways that hurt; they won’t rebuke him in the kind of language they used to attack Democrats and ideological opponents. They won’t deny the truth of what Trump has shown about their party.
Instead, GOP leaders—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others—have opted to reconcile themselves to that truth. Under Trump, the Republican Party is the party of ethno-nationalist rage, and its most prominent voices are OK with it. [Slate, 8/1/16]
NY Times Editorial Board: None Of The Responses From Republican Leaders “Have Gone Far Enough.” The New York Times editorial board wrote that while some Republican leaders “have come out with strong criticisms, … none have gone far enough,” because “Repudiation of [Trump’s] candidacy is the only principled response.” From the August 2 editorial:
Mr. Trump’s divisive views helped him capture the Republican presidential nomination. And even as he creates a political whirlwind with each utterance, leading members of his own party haven’t the spine to rescind their support. Sure, some have come out with strong criticisms, but none have gone far enough. Repudiation of his candidacy is the only principled response.
Some Republicans, like the House speaker, Paul Ryan; the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell; and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire released statements defending the Khans. Yet they still refuse to back off their support for Mr. Trump.
Few carry as much weight on military matters as Senator John McCain of Arizona, himself a decorated hero of the Vietnam War, who issued a statement Monday sharply criticizing Mr. Trump, saying, “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party.”
It’s hard to imagine, a year into the campaign, that Mr. Trump could ever set such an example. The truth is, it’s time for Mr. McCain and other Republican leaders to set an example for their party by withdrawing support for Mr. Trump. [The New York Times, 8/2/16]
LA Times Editorial Board: “It’s Not Enough” For Republican Leaders “To Reject Individual Statements By Trump.” The Los Angeles Times editorial board criticized Republican leaders who “continue to stand behind” Trump, writing it it “has us wondering where they draw the line — or whether they’ll ever draw the line — when it comes to this candidate.” The board added that “It’s not enough to reject individual statements by Trump” and “Those who will not repudiate him are on the wrong side in this battle for the nation’s political soul.” From the August 1 editorial:
It’s been clear for a while that Donald J. Trump is unqualified to be president of the United States. Now, in denigrating the parents of an American soldier killed in war, he has proven he is uniquely unqualified to be commander in chief. Yet top elected Republican leaders continue to stand behind him, which has us wondering where they draw the line — or whether they’ll ever draw the line — when it comes to this candidate, who does little more than spew inanities and insults.
McCain, who is running for reelection, said Monday that he “cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement,” and commended Humayan Khan’s bravery and actions. But McCain still backs Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin also lauded the Khans and reiterated their opposition to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, yet they too continue to endorse him for president.
There are politics involved, to be sure. Few Republicans want to be disloyal to their party, and that sometimes means standing next to someone with whom they have deep philosophical disagreements. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and others involved in the party machinery are in a difficult position: Trump won the nomination and now they’re stuck with him. But elected officials like McConnell, Ryan and McCain are duty-bound to put country ahead of party.
It’s not enough to reject individual statements by Trump. Trump’s entire campaign is based on his ego, his intolerance and his disreputable world view. Those who will not repudiate him are on the wrong side in this battle for the nation’s political soul. [Los Angeles Times, 8/1/16]
Wash. Post’s Chris Cillizza: “It’s Stunning” That McCain Still Supports Trump After Condemning Attacks On Khans. Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza said that McCain’s statement was “stunning” because “You read that statement and you think, ‘Well this must -- he can't possibly support [Trump].’ Well, he still does.” From the August 2 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): Hey Bob, let me just go back for one second and you were talking about Congress and the pressure Paul Ryan is feeling to hold the party together right now so he can't outright come out and revoke, he says, his support for Donald Trump. But John McCain was an interesting figure to watch over the weekend. I know he was getting a lot of pressure from higher ups in the party, elders in the party, to come out and say something because of who he is and the stature he carries with him. He's in a tight race at home in Arizona. How difficult is this call for a lot of those people up there?
ROBERT COSTA: Well for McCain, a lot of his statement comes from his background. He’s a war hero. He often likes to offer moral clarity. But he's someone in an interesting political position, Willie, because he has a primary coming up later this month in a state whose Republican Party is pretty red meat, a little bit to the right, populist, anti-illegal immigration. But in the general election, he’s looking at facing [(Rep.)] Ann Kirkpatrick [(D-AZ)]. And it's a tight race. I mean, these polls show a close race. But I was calling around Trump's advisers and friends yesterday saying what do you think about McCain? Is his statement a big moment? And Rudy Giuliani told me, a close confidant of Trump, “You know what, I think McCain’s just making a political calculation.” He thinks McCain, in his view, he said he had a lot of respect for McCain, but he thinks McCain is trying to just make sure he wins over those swing voters in Arizona. That's at least Giuliani's perspective. And I think you see McCain, a lot of people in the party were hoping he would be kind of a gusher of more statements like that. But still there's this hesitation to really break fully from Donald Trump.
CHRIS CILLIZZA: Willie, just to quickly add to Bob’s point. It is stunning. You read that McCain statement, “dishonorable,” “we can't do this,” “we should honor the families,” but no rescinding of the endorsement. It's a remarkable thing because he knows -- the problem is they are afraid of the Trump voter. They cannot walk away from them. At the same time -- look, McCain in his heart of hearts thinks, “I can't believe we nominated this guy, I can't believe this is happening.” At the same time he sees what Trump has done in the primary process, and he does not want to get on the wrong side of it. But it's stunning. You read that statement and you think, “Well this must -- he can't possibly support him.” Well, he still does. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 8/2/16]
WSJ’s Bret Stephens: “It Will Not Do For Republicans To Say They Denounce Mr. Trump’s Personal Slanders ... And Still Campaign For His Election.” Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens criticized Ryan for his statement disavowing Trump, writing “It will not do for Republicans to say they denounce Mr. Trump’s personal slanders … and still campaign for his election.”. Stephens added, “There is no redemption in saying you went along with it, but only halfway; that with Mr. Trump you maintained technical virginity.” From the August 1 column:
Of all of Donald Trump’s vile irruptions—about Sen.J ohn McCain’s military record, or reporter Serge Kovaleski’s physical handicap, or Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s judicial fitness—his casual smear of Ghazala Khan is perhaps the vilest.
[Trump] is morally unfit for any office, high or low.
This is the point that needs to dawn—and dawn soon—on Republican officeholders who pretend to endorse Mr. Trump while also pretending, via wink-and-nod, that they do not. Paul Ryan has tried to walk this razor’s edge by stressing how much he disagrees with Mr. Trump’s “ideas.” On Sunday the speaker issued a flabby statement extolling the Khan family’s sacrifice and denouncing religious tests for immigrants without mentioning Mr. Trump by name.
It will not do for Republicans to say they denounce Mr. Trump’s personal slanders; his nativism and protectionism and isolationism; his mendacity and meanness and crassness; his disdain for constitutional protections—and still campaign for his election. There is no redemption in saying you went along with it, but only halfway; that with Mr. Trump you maintained technical virginity. To lie down with him is to wake up with him. It’s as simple as that.
Politics is mostly the business of maintaining popularity in the here-and-now. Not always. Come January, Mrs. Clinton will likely be president. Whether there is a GOP that can still lay a claim to moral and political respectability is another question. Mr. Ryan and other Go-Along Republicans should treat the Khan episode as their last best hope to preserve political reputations they have worked so hard to build. [Wall Street Journal, 8/1/16]
Politico’s Ben White: “Unless [Ryan] Renounces Trump” His Statement Is “Less Than Worthless.”
Unless he renounces Trump these things are less than worthless. https://t.co/DXnsnPkNS8
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) July 31, 2016
National Journal’s Ron Fournier: McCain’s Statement Is “Empty Words” Because He Wants Trump “To Be President.”
John McCain endorses Trump, wants him to be president of the United States
Rest is just words. Empty words: https://t.co/Eb29WQWsRK
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) August 2, 2016