The story is not so much that Donald Trump is being rebuked for his comments about Kazir Khan but that (a) he had almost no reason to go after Khan in the first place and (b) he keeps doing it for no strategically apparent reason. For a DNC nominee's speech whose main case against Trump was that he was easily baited, he seems to be doing everything in his power to prove her right.
A few points of order:
- Kazir Khan's speech was not during prime time. The original viewers were probably few.
- A simple acknowledgement of his sacrifice and a statement of disagreement would have ended the controversy. Sure, Khan might have still been around but he wouldn't be dominating the news.
- Defenders of Trump pointed out that Khan struck first--but what actually happened was that Mr. Khan upbraided Trump and then Trump impugned the silent Mrs. Khan. The "He started it" defense only makes sense if Mrs. Khan is seen by Trump-supporters are merely an extension of Mr. Khan. Sad!
The Red Line That Is Easily Crossed
A bunch of GOP politicians have come out and said that Trump's language is (in some sense) unacceptable. Ryan has said that Trump does not represent the party: but Mr. Trump is the nominee for President and Ryan is still advocating voting for him in November. Essentially the condemnations from other Republican leaders are "Obama Red Lines" that, when crossed, get nothing but harsh language.
Of course what are they going to do? Sink the nominee? If Trump wins in November, being against him would meaning being either immediately or quickly out of office. If he loses badly, being against him puts you in the position of being blamed for the next 20 years of SCOTUS. It's a rock and a hard place.
Was Mr. Khan Being Used?
There are several basic pro-Trump responses to the wrath of Mr. Khan. These are:
- Khan was tricked into supporting Hillary. In this view the DNC found Mr. Khan and bamboozled him into smearing Trump. There is no evidence for this and it doesn't hold up with Mr. Khan speaking without notes of any sort.
- How Could He Defend The Killer of Benghazi?? At least two responses have either Gold Star families or active service members attacking Mr. Khan because of Hillary's role in Benghazi. Of course more than seven Congressional inquiries found her not to be at fault--but when has that ever stopped anyone?
- Mr. Khan is a Radical Muslim Plant--Or Something. There are a variety of smear-jobs going around claiming that Mr. Khan is in the tank for Hillary because he's sympathetic to terrorists. These seem about as credible as The Onion.
- He's a Useful Idiot. In this view, Mr. Khan is upset--rightfully so about his son being killed--but has gotten the wrong idea about Trump and, while he really believes Trump is a racist, he is simply being trotted out thanks to the DNC's scheming brilliance. He wasn't tricked--he's just "useful."
It is worth noting that the RNC had their own Survivor Mom on stage blaming Hillary for Benghazi and lying about the cause of it. They weren't above using families of the fallen--they just didn't do it quite as well (or the Media didn't let them).
So was he a pawn?
The evidence says "no." He's an articulate lawyer. He prepared his own remarks. He apparently does have a former relationship with DNC--but it is not clear it goes back before Trump. He also seems to have continued to be involved in the military well after the death of his son. In other words, he's the real deal.
The argument that Mr. Khan is wrong hinges on Trump being misunderstood about his take on Muslims. The idea is that if you take Trump perfectly literally he hasn't said anything bad about them at all--just that there are terrorists and we need to protect ourselves.
That may be true--but it is notable that about half of the defense of Mr. Trump is on the basis that he spoke carelessly. In other words, you can't have it both ways--if his tone and tenor seems to be anti-Muslim (and it does) then you can't defend him on the literal limits of his words without opening him up to even more devastating lines of attack.
Trump doesn't seem to hold Mexicans or Muslims in high regard in general: to suggest that he is carefully parsing his words on this doesn't fit with anything else Trump has said.