The Wall Street Journal is out with a tough editorial today, upbraiding Donald Trump for his remarks demeaning Sen. John McCain's hellish experience as a prisoner of war and questioning whether McCain qualifies as a war hero. The Republican National Committee and virtually every Republican in the field has denounced Trump's latest insult -- with the Journal adding its influential voice to the chorus of calumny:
It came slightly ahead of schedule, but Donald Trump’s inevitable self-immolation arrived on the weekend when he assailed John McCain’s war record. The question now is how long his political and media apologists on the right will keep pretending he’s a serious candidate...The summer Trump polling spurt has nonetheless been instructive in exposing a growing problem on the political right. All too many conservatives, including some magazine editors, have been willing to overlook his hucksterism as he’s risen in the polls. They pretend that he deserves respect because he’s giving voice to some deep disquiet or anger in the American electorate. But America has rarely lacked for demagogues willing to exploit public discontents. William Jennings Bryan won three Democratic presidential nominations running against eastern elites. In 1948 Henry Wallace ran as a Soviet sympathizer while Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes running as a segregationist. Either one would have been a disaster as President. As a standard-bearer for conservative ideas, Mr. Trump would likewise be a catastrophe. His only discernible principle is the promotion of his personal brand. His main message seems to be that because he’s rich and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he can afford to tell everyone to go to hell. Some Americans may find it satisfying 16 months from Election Day to tell pollsters they’d vote for him, but that doesn’t mean conservative elites should validate this nonsense.
First thing's first: There is no shortage of issues on which conservatives have ample reason to question and criticize John McCain. His war record is emphatically not among them:
[T]he most pertinent part of McCain's heroism [is that by] all accounts, his noisy resistance to everyday humiliations, and his profane outburst at a made-for-propaganda Christmas service in 1968, gave great strength to his fellow POWs. McCain was an inveterate communicator in Hanoi, tapping code like mad to keep his comrades' spirits up and even acting as chaplain when conditions in the prisons started to improve...[T]he most pertinent part of McCain's heroism [is that by] all accounts, his noisy resistance to everyday humiliations, and his profane outburst at a made-for-propaganda Christmas service in 1968, gave great strength to his fellow POWs. McCain was an inveterate communicator in Hanoi, tapping code like mad to keep his comrades' spirits up and even acting as chaplain when conditions in the prisons started to improve.
McCain flew 22 successful missions in Vietnam. After being injured in a terrible accident, McCain could have sidelined himself from combat; he chose to keep fighting. Likewise, when his status as a son of a prominent officer afforded him the opportunity to be released early from his torturous POW ordeal, he refused. By comparison, Donald Trump has never served in uniform, but that hasn't stopped him from trashing McCain's service and bragging ludicrously about his own prowess, employing highly Trumpian bravado: "No one is bigger or better than the military than I am," he told Bill O'Reilly. I discussed this flap with Gretchen Carlson earlier today:
Yes, Donald Trump is (clumsily and tactlessly) highlighting certain issues that some conservatives believe are being ignored. Yes, he's channeling many Americans' utter contempt for the political class and refusing to play by "the rules," which some people may find refreshing. But he's comporting himself as a crass, witless insult comic. His temperament is the opposite of presidential. And, importantly, he is not a conservative. Donald Trump does and says whatever Donald Trump thinks he must to maximize attention for Donald Trump. Until very recently, that calculus resulted in thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Hillary Clinton and other liberal Democrats, advocacy for single-payer government-run healthcare (which he still supports and says he'd raise taxes to pay for), and support for late term abortion, gun control, and tax increases. Oh, and he's still pro-"amnesty," ironically. He's praised President Obama's fiscal policies, supported the so-called "stimulus," and applauded Hillary Clinton as a "terrific woman" doing a "good job" as Secretary of State in 2012. Amazingly, a substantial portion of the anti-'RINO' crowd has been taken in by a man who is quite literally a Republican in Name Only, based largely on emotion. Conservatives should resist the temptation of gravitating toward Trump's self-serving belligerence and refuse to be bamboozled by a man who is guaranteed to abandon his latest set of "principles" the very nanosecond they outlive their fleeting utility to him. Every hour Donald Trump continues to suck up political and media oxygen is an hour that credible conservative candidates struggle to cut through the noise and get their messages out. And aside from Jeb Bush, no one benefits more than Hillary Clinton -- to whom Trump is offering his most generous contribution yet. I'll leave you with this:
On Sunday’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Representative Will Hurd whether Republicans were deploying a double standard by acting outraged at celebrity plutocrat Donald Trump’s dismissal of Senator John McCain’s war heroism, just a decade after “swiftboating” then-Democratic nominee John Kerry.
Kerry was "swiftboated" by his fellow combat veterans, whom he returned home and publicly slandered. They told the truth about Kerry's deplorable conduct. With all due respect to Tapper, there's no comparison here.