Horowitz: Donald Trump is the Gift that Keeps Giving to the Clinton Campaign

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


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Rob Horowitz

As anyone who watched last week’s Democratic Convention can recognize, Hillary Clinton is taking dead aim at the broad middle of the electorate, explicitly reaching out to moderates, independents and disaffected Republicans who are ripe persuasion targets for her because of their dislike of and discomfort with Donald Trump.  

The parade of high military officials, led by John Allen, the former Commander of Military Forces in Afghanistan, the repeated chants of USA, accompanied by delegates waving USA posters, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech attacking Donald Trump were part of a well-orchestrated effort to place Hillary Clinton firmly in the American mainstream and assert that Donald Trump’s values and temperament place the Reality Star outside that mainstream and a very risky bet.

In an unintentional gift to the Clinton Campaign, Donald Trump, in his ill-advised responses to what was said about him at the Democratic Convention, has reinforced and amplified the case made against him, doing more damage to himself in the process than all the speeches in Philadelphia combined.

The largest problem Trump has created for himself stems from his despicable and repeated attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of US Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004 as he was courageously protecting his unit   With his wife standing at his side, Khizr Kahn movingly spoke at the Democratic Convention, about his son’s bravery and sacrifice, criticizing Trump for demonizing Muslim Americans. He pulled out a copy of the Constitution and said.“ Donald Trump Have you read the Us Constitution, I will gladly lend you my copy’ He went on to say, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Without any initial recognition of their son’s heroism, Trump responded by attacking Ghazala Kahn, implying that she didn’t speak because of her Muslim faith.  “His wife uh, 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. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet.”

On this past Friday night's Last Word with Larry O’Donnell on MSNBC and in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Ghazala articulately explained that she didn’t speak because she was too grief stricken. In a Facebook Post introducing the column, Mrs. Kahn said, "Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother.”

In a disastrous interview with George Stephanopoulos, which aired on Sunday, Trump responded to a question about what sacrifices he has made for the country, by saying, “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs. Tens of thousands of jobs.”    And Trump made this tone-deaf comment without first acknowledging that whatever sacrifices he has made they pale in comparison to the Kahn family.

Trump’s comments have given the Kahns' criticisms far more attention and visibility than they would have ever received if he had kept his mouth shut or at least responded with a modicum of grace.  Republicans, Democrats and Military Veterans alike are harshly taking the Reality Star and Businessman to task for his callousness.

In a statement issued yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party," McCain said. "While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us. Lastly, I'd like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you 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."

McCain’s fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham expressed a similar sentiment, “There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics, that you don’t do, like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier, even if they criticize you,” Mr. Graham continued. “If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism, and Mr. Trump can’t.”

Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted: “For ANYONE to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is foolish, insulting and ignorant.” And: “Especially someone who has never served in the military himself and has no children serving.” And: “Our count[r]y’s been at war for a over a decade & the truth is most Americans sacrificed nothing. Most of them are grounded enough to admit it.”

Some political observers wrongly conclude that because Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, despite making a series of outrageous and sometimes bigoted comments, that he paid no political price for his actions and may not be damaged politically by this latest back and forth.   But in terms of his general election prospects Trump has paid a high price, becoming the most unpopular Presidential nominee in the history of modern polling.  This latest round will continue the self-inflicted harm. It is only fitting because for any one who is still holding out hope that Trump will suddenly comport himself in the way one would expect from a President, he continues to show his true colors—and they are not appealing ones . 

The patriotism, knowledge, dignity and grace of Khizr and Ghazala Khan provide the starkest contrast to the pettiness, ignorance and self-involvement of Donald Trump. It is a contrast that I suspect will linger in many voters’ minds through election day..

 Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


Related Slideshow: Trump Rally in Warwick Rhode Island, April, 2016


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