Understanding the Trump-Khan conflict
Josh Marshall has some interesting observations at TPM. From his editorial:
. . . You will never win a fight savaging the parents of a dead soldier. So it’s a fight you simply don’t engage in. A smart terrible person would get this and say something along the lines of the quote I noted above. Trump doesn’t seem terribly bright. But this isn’t about intelligence as we test it with logic puzzles. Realizing that this would be the only way to respond requires a level of self-awareness a narcissist lacks and a degree of impulse control Trump simply does not have. Empathy or any moral consciousness would get you there too. But remember, we’re focusing here on the difference between a smart terrible person and a dumb terrible person both of which lack those qualities.When Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala appeared at the Democratic convention they attacked and shamed Trump. He no doubt experienced it that way and the chorus of approbation the Khans received from virtually every part of the political spectrum deepened his sense of humiliation and loss of status and standing. As I’ve noted in so many contexts, the need to assert dominance is at the root of all of Trump’s actions. His whole way of understanding the world is one made up of dominators and the dominated. There’s no infinite grey middle ground, where most of us live the vast majority of our human relationships. That’s why even those who are conspicuously loyal are routinely humiliated in public. In that schema, Trump simply had no choice but to lash out, to rebalance the equation of dominance in his favor. It’s an impulse that goes beyond reason or any deliberation. That’s what left so many would-be or maybe allies flabbergasted at how or why he would have walked straight into such a buzzsaw of outrage.
For a narcissist like Trump, the rage and emotional disequilibrium of being dominated, humiliated is simply too much to bear. He must lash out. What he said in one of his tweets responding to the Khans is perhaps the most telling. “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond?” The use of the adverb “viciously” is a good tell that Trump is a narcissist. But setting that aside, most people would know that the answer is “No, you’re not.” Certainly you’re not allowed to respond in the sense of attacking back. Their son died serving the country. You don’t get to attack them. Someone with a moral consciousness who is capable to empathy would understand this through a moral prism. A smart terrible person would understand it as a matter of pragmatism. Smart terrible people spend time to understand human behavior, even if the moral dimension of it is invisible to them or a matter of indifference. Just as importantly, they have impulse control. . .
In the meantime, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continue to demonstrate their true colors by their unwavering support of Donald Trump, while Senator John McCain (who, Trump declared, was not a hero because his plane was shot down in the Vietnam War and McCain was taken prisoner, something that would never happen to Donald Trump since he would never, ever serve in a war) takes issue with Trump’s attacks on the fallen soldier’s parents. Jennifer Steinhauer reports in the NY Times:
In a remarkable and lengthy rebuke of his party’s nominee, Senator John McCain sharply criticized Donald J. Trump’s comments about the family of a fallen Muslim Army captain, saying, “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.”
Mr. McCain, a war hero whose service and capture in Vietnam was also once derided by Mr. Trump, had stayed largely silent over the weekend as Mr. Trump’s feud with the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan brewed, waiting until Monday morning to release a prepared statement.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents,” he wrote of the parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan. “He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers or candidates.”
Reverence for the military has been at the core of Mr. McCain’s career — he was his party’s nominee in 2008 and serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — and he has a close allegiance to families of those killed in conflict. Mr. McCain is now in a tough re-election battle in his home state of Arizona.
While his statement, like that of congressional Republican leaders, fell short of rescinding his reluctant endorsement of Mr. Trump, it was a detailed and personal condemnation.
“I wear a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen hero, Matthew Stanley, which his mother, Lynn, gave me in 2007 at a town-hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire,” Mr. McCain wrote. “His memory and the memory of our great leaders deserve better from me.”
“Make no mistake: I do not valorize our military out of some unfamiliar instinct,” he wrote. “I grew up in a military family, and have my own record of service, and have stayed closely engaged with our armed forces throughout my public career. In the American system, the military has value only inasmuch as it protects and defends the liberties of the people.”
He added: . . .