Will shocked voters forgive showdown with martyr’s parents?
Donald Trump may or may not be the President of the United States. But he is lucky to have survived the “biggest crisis” of his campaign.
Trump invited widespread condemnation after he insulted the parents of a Gold Star (highly decorated) Muslim US soldier.
The din this time was bigger than the uproar in June, when Trump suggested that a federal judge, Gonzalo P Curiel, was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.
The crisis in Trump’s campaign came after the showdown between him and the parents of US martyr Humayun Khan.
The confrontation between Trump on one hand, and Humayun’s parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan on the other, had labelled the Republican presidential nominee as a person of “unredeemable callousness”.
The NYT called the confrontation “an unexpected and potentially pivotal flash point in the general election”.
Trump’s attack on the martyr’s parents was seen as unforgivable.
An American news website said the media built the confrontation as a specific line of attack that pitted Trump against the military-and supposedly showed him as a “big meanie racist” in the process.
Trump has managed to extricate himself from the mess, courtesy Khizr Khan’s long-term association with Hillary.
News website Breitbart reported that Khan has “all sorts of financial, legal, and political connections to the Clintons through his old law firm. That firm did Hillary Clinton’s taxes for years. It also has represented, for years, the government of Saudi Arabia in the United States… a Clinton Foundation donor which… plays right into the ‘Clinton Cash’ narrative,” said the Breitbart report.
Till a few days ago, a sizable percentage of voters in the US said they were caught in a strange bind. The notion gaining ground was that the Democratic and the Republican nominee were as bad as each other.
A retired teacher from Minnesota put the disenchantment rather succinctly. “Hillary and Trump are Coke and Pepsi, both bad for you,” she spat out at a rally in Philadelphia.
|Donald Trump had responded with churlishness to a speech made by the father of a Muslim US soldier.|
Many voters swinging towards Trump had been shocked by their presidential nominee mocking the mother of an American soldier who died protecting fellow troops.
Even though the crisis has watered down, it does not take away from the analysis that Trump’s attacks on the Khans “are part of a broader pattern of lashing out at others in extremely personal terms for critiquing him”.
Republican Party leaders in the House and the Senate had distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures attacked their nominee forcefully.
Senator John McCain issued a very personal statement, and thanked Khizr and Ghalaza Khan for immigrating to America. “We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten,” he said in his statement.
Trump had responded with churlishness to the speech made by Khan, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant, at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on July 28.
Khan is the father of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who died in 2004 in Iraq as he tried to save his fellow soldiers.
Humayun was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was only 27 years old.
In his impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Khan had reprimanded Trump. Hugely cheered by the crowd, Khan made a powerful plea for all immigrants and minorities.
“We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division. We are stronger together,” he had said at the DNC. “You have sacrificed nothing. And no one,” he told Trump.
Trump later mocked Humayun’s parents by saying the soldier’s father had delivered the entire speech because his mother was not “allowed” to speak.
In an interview in response to Khan’s speech, Trump said, “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”
He told the NYT in a later interview: “I’d like to hear his wife say something.”
When the soldier’s mother Ghazala spoke, the Trump graph dipped further.
She said she “cannot even come in the room where his (Humayun’s) pictures are.”
While Khan and his wife were on stage, Humayun Khan’s photograph in uniform was displayed on the huge screen on the stage. Ghazala said when she saw the photograph, “she couldn’t take it.”
“I controlled myself at that time,” she said in an interview, choking back tears. “It is very hard.” Ghazala said she did not speak because she did not believe she could remain composed while talking about her son.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, did not let Trump get off easy with this monumental error of judgment.
In an election speech, she hit out at Trump for his total insensitivity towards the parents of a martyr.
“Mr Khan paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn’t he?” Hillary asked. “And what has he heard from Donald Trump? Nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great.”
She called Trump’s response to the Khans “part of a disturbing pattern”.
How far this charge effects Trump’s ambitions to be in the White House will be determined by US voters soon.