The barely-a-billionaire bully has taken over the GOP’s presidential primary playground. The Republican presidential debate will now take place after school, by the flagpole.
Outside of a Republican presidential primary, there’s no place that Trump’s “juvenile name-calling, dubious boasts, short attention span, constant need for attention, and temper tantrums when things don’t go his way,” is considered acceptable or excusable behavior. Not even a kindergarten teacher would put up with it for long. Trump would find himself spending recess sitting inside, thinking about what he’s done.
This week, Trump’s behavior escalated to the point where Republicans finally started speaking out and condemning it. What changed? After spending weeks insulting Latinos, and spouting all manner of xenophobic rhetoric, Trump finally crossed the line, when he did something that at long last sparked Republican’s outrage.
Trump broke Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Trump committed a cardinal sin (for Republicans), when he belittled Sen. John McCain’s (R, Arizona) military service during a presidential forum in Iowa. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, likely smarting from McCain’s remark that Trump’s appearance in Arizona “fired up the crazies.” “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said.
McCain, while serving as a naval aviator, was shot down during the Vietnam war. He was held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi for more than five years, refusing early release even after being repeatedly beaten. Trump, on the other hand, told reporters in Iowa that he didn’t serve in Vietnam because, “I was going to college and got student deferments.” Trump then added that he “wasn’t a big fan of the Vietnam War, but sat it out because he had bad feet. ”It’s a long time ago, student deferments and ultimately a medical deferment because of my feet. I had a bone spur.”
Called upon to apologize, Trump doubled down on his remarks. The response was decidedly mixed, with several Republicans finally echoing Hillary Clinton’s “Basta!”, concerning Trump, while a few in conservative media actually defended Trump.
- McCain fired back during an interview on “Morning Joe,” saying that Trump didn’t owe him an apology, but owed one to other POWs instead. “No,” McCain said. “I don’t think so, but I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.”
- On “Fox & Friends,” hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck defended Trump. Doocy, in particular, belabored the point that Trump only said McCain was “not a war hero” one time.
- The GOP’s own “mean girl,” Sarah Palin joined in, calling both Trump and McCain “heroes.” “Donald Trump is a hero in another arena,” Palin said. “Trump is the candidate giving voice to untold millions of fed-up Americans witnessing a purposeful destruction of our economy and the equal opportunity for success that made America exceptional,” Palin said. And this is the same as a Hanoi POW camp how?
* Iowa’s biggest newspaper, the Des Moines Register called on Trump to drop out of the race, calling him “the distraction with traction – a feckless blowhard who can generate headlines, name recognition and polling numbers not by provoking thought, but by provoking outrage.” Trump fired back, calling the editorial “sophomoric.”
* Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said Trump as “jumped the shark,” and is “dead to me” after his attacks on Sen. McCain’s military service.
* Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, Arizona), a close friend of McCain’s, called Trump a “jackass,” during a CNN interview. “This is a line he’s crossed, and this is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump … I am really pissed,” Graham said.
* Trump fired back at Graham during an unhinged-even-for-Trump speech in South Carolina, by giving out Graham’s personal cell phone number.
* Graham responded by dousing his phone with lighter fluid and setting fire to it.
* Trump began making noises about an independent bid for president, if the GOP doesn’t treat him fairly, but a new poll suggests Trump would probably lose badly as a third party candidate — and take the Republican candidate down with him.
* Hoping to keep Trump from dominating the first DOP presidential debate, GOP candidates are considering boycotting the debates until Trump is sent packing.
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 18, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero, period. I’ll denounce any attack against his service and anyone else who wears the uniform. -SW
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) July 18, 2015
Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 18, 2015
America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 18, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero, period.
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) July 18, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero. Every breath I breathe and every step I take is free because of brave Americans like John McCain.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) July 18, 2015
I know @SenJohnMcCain. Senator John McCain is an American hero. Period. Stop.
— Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie) July 18, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain served w honor&courage-proud to call him a friend. GOP voters deserve better than outrageous statements & personal attacks.
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) July 18, 2015
At the heart of @realDonaldTrump statement is a lack of respect for those who have served – a disqualifying characteristic to be president
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
Of course, the GOP candidates who rushed to denounce Trump were at some point bankrolled by the man who funded the “Swiftboat” attacks on John Kerry’s military service in back in 2004. Bob Perry, who died in 2013, spent $4.4 million to fund “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth,” a group that ran ads calling Kerry’s service into question, and falsely accusing him of lying about his service. Perry also donated to Republican candidates, including: Jeb Bush, Rick Perry (no relation), Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz.
Until now, Trump has been an almost ideal Republican bully; a brash and belligerent, wealthy white male, and attitudes that belong more to the age of Archie Bunker than the Obama era. Republicans seemed unwilling to condemn him when he was maligning Latinos. After all, it’s hard to credibly condemn Trump’s outrageous bigotry, when conservative pundits like Ann Coulter take their cues from known white nationalists, presidential candidates like Rand Paul break bread with slavery apologists like Cliven Bundy, and many Republicans happily accept donations from neb-confederate organization.
What gives the GOP establishment indigestion about Trump is also what the GOP base appears to love about the real estate magnate. Even following his attack on McCain’s service, Trump surged ahead of the GOP presidential pack with 24 percent approval rating in a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, compared to 13 percent for Jeb Bush.
Still, this may be the week that Trump’s campaign “jumped the shark,” if the Republican closes ranks against him. What became clear this week is that Republicans love a bully, and will cheer him on — or at least refrain from condemning him — as long as he bullies the “right people.” Only when finally subjected to their own poison do conservatives cry foul at its bitter taste. Only when Trump attacks one of their own do Republicans find the courage to maybe rid themselves of him.
Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:
- Radio host Michael Savage reacted to the shooting in Chattanooga by railing against the media for supposedly covering up the shooter’s religion. Savage said that Americans could be driven to “civil war” if the media portrays terrorism as anything other than Islamic terrorism.
- A flummoxed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wasn’t “stupid enough” to answer questions about his claim that President Obama used forged documents to prove his US citizenship. Arpaio is just stupid enough to make that claim, but that’s it.
- A Michigan town blocked a Muslim resident from building a summer camp near the town, for fear that it would become a ISIS training camp.
- Televangelist John Hagee said that the deceptively edited video used to smear Planned Parenthood with charges of allegedly selling “aborted baby parts,” “brings to mind the evil of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Dr. Mengele.”
- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got challenged on biblical law during a town hall meeting in Iowa, when a man reminded Huckabee that he’s breaking Biblical law by shaving. Rod Webber quoted the book of Leviticus, “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.”
- As he prepares for his African visit, Pat Robertson urged President Obama to “listen to some of his fellow Africans,” on LGBT rights.
- Robertson also told “700 Club” viewers that the Supreme Court will one day rule that sexual relationships between humans and animals are legal. “Love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted,” Robertson said.