Clarence Page: Donald Trump’s big favor to Hillary Clinton
It is not enough to succeed, Gore Vidal once said; others must fail. As presidential nominee Hillary Clinton enjoys a bump in her polls after the Democratic National Convention, she’s getting a boost from her Republican opponent Donald Trump’s epic fails.
First, there was his ugly and self-destructive denigration of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a fallen American military hero. Their son, Capt. Humayun Khan, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers from a car bomb in Iraq.
Yet, as his father Khizr Khan said, standing with his wife before the Democratic National Convention on its final night, “if it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”
The most bracing moment came when the grieving father offered to lend his own pocket Constitution to Trump, invited him to visit Arlington National Cemetery and declared in a halting but clear voice, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
We know by now that Trump, who denies having a thin skin, actually has a very thin skin, too thin to let him express the simple and sympathetic reactions of such previous presidents as George W. Bush and Barack Obama when they were criticized by Gold Star parents. They expressed sympathy and gratitude for those families’ sacrifices and grief.
But Trump, the man who openly shuns “political correctness,” saying it “takes too much time,” apparently didn’t have time to think twice before claiming that he was “viciously attacked” by the Khans, which only gave the controversy more legs through the weekend.
In an ABC interview Sunday, he also equated his “sacrifices” as a billionaire businessman to those made by the Khans and suggested that Mrs. Khan had not spoken because her Muslim faith forbids it. In fact, as she later explained in interviews and a Washington Post op-ed, she felt unable to speak in front of her son’s photo without crying.
All of this, by way, ended a week in which the Grand Old Party’s nominee looked like an arrogant simpleton in three other examples of self-inflicted wounds: He invited Russian hackers to uncover and release Clinton’s private emails. He sounded as confident, yet confused and ignorant, about the turmoil in Ukraine as a student who was trying to bull jive his way through an oral exam for which he had not studied. He also mocked another Democratic convention speaker, who happens to be a retired four-star general, as a failure.
But at least those Trumpian attacks, like most of his previous jabs, involved public figures. His decision to pick on the grieving parents of a slain war hero is enough to raise concerns about his mental and emotional health.
After all, if Trump goes this nuclear over criticism from grieving Gold Star parents, one wonders how he would deal with, say, Kim Jong Un? I, for one, hope we never have to find out.
Most frustrating to other Republicans, the calls for GOP leaders to repudiate Trump for his growing list of offenses distract from their efforts to undermine Clinton.
On Sunday, for example, Clinton undermined her own efforts to improve her shaky poll numbers for trustworthiness. During a Fox News interview, she uttered a whopper that was serious enough to earn “four Pinocchios,” the Washington Post’s fact-checking department’s worst rating.
She said in part that FBI Director James “Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people….” Post Fact-Checker columnist Glenn Kesslerwrote that she was “cherry-picking statements by Comey to preserve her narrative about the unusual setup of a private email server” and “skate past the more disturbing findings of the FBI investigation.”
Yet, after Trump tweeted Clinton’s Pinocchios, Kessler tweeted, “Both amusing & irritating to see @realDonaldTrump tout a 4-P fact check on HRC when his staff almost never responds to fact check queries.”
Indeed, in this contest between two candidates with unusually low public approval ratings, neither can afford to make too many mistakes. But Trump has made enough unforced errors lately to qualify as a non-cash contribution to Clinton’s campaign.
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