Back in December, when Donald Trump proposed his ban on Muslims’ entering the United States, I wrote a piece called “Donald Trump’s Bottomless Bottom.” There was no depth he wouldn’t sink to, it seemed—and, sadly, it also seemed there was no abomination for which his loyal primary supporters would punish him. Trump had already called Mexicans who illegally entered the country drug dealers and “rapists,” questioned former-prisoner-of-war Senator John McCain’s hero credentials—“I like people who weren’t captured,” he needled—and led a crusade against popular Fox News host Megyn Kelly, blaming her tough debate questioning on her menstrual cycle. As Trump kept diving for the bottom, he kept rising in the polls.
To their credit, many of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination, having let his earlier remarks slide, criticized his anti-Muslim jihad. “Banning all Muslims will make it harder for us to do exactly what we need to do, which is destroy ISIS,” Jeb Bush said at a debate the next week. “We need to engage with the Arab world to make this happen.” But as we now know, more than two-thirds of GOP primary voters agreed with Trump’s stand, and he won the primary.
I was right about Trump’s bottomless bottom; his Muslim ban proposal wasn’t disqualifying. Nothing has been, yet. But now he’s dragged the whole Republican Party down to a new bottom with him. His attacks on the Muslim parents of Capt. Humayan Khan, who was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber in 2004 while saving many in his unit, have been despicable. Khan’s father, Khzir, was the soul of the Democratic National Convention, railing against Trump for wanting to bar people like his medal-winning son from the country, and offering to lend him his pocket copy of the US Constitution, since it seems obvious Trump hasn’t read it. “You have sacrificed nothing, and no one,” Khan told Trump, and his words rang through the convention hall. They are still ringing this week.
Predictably, Trump struck back. But maybe less predictably, while GOP leaders rebuked Trump—running mate Mike Pence called Captain Khan “an American hero”—not one of them withdrew their endorsement of the divisive, disrespectful bully. Hilariously, a Trump aide reached out to Capitol Hill seeking members’ support for his boss in his feud with the Khans. He reportedly got no response. On Tuesday morning, Representative Richard Hanna, R-NY, became the first House member to announce that he would support Hillary Clinton. “For me, it is not enough to simply denounce his comments: He is unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country,” Hanna wrote in an op-ed. But the pro-choice congressman is retiring this year; his party’s leaders have been unable to show the same spine.
Let’s remember: Other candidates for president—indeed, presidents themselves—have been attacked by the grieving parents of children lost in wars. Cindy Sheehan became a peace crusader and a George W. Bush antagonist after she lost her son in the Iraq war. But Bush treated her gently. “I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan.… She has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position.”