The old-consensus political-correctness crowd still doesn’t get it.
In an editorial for NBC News today, Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann suggest hopefully that the flap over Trump’s undoubtedly crass criticism of Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan would bring him down at last:
Donald Trump’s confounding war with a Gold Star family — earning condemnation from veterans groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – has started to have a distinct air over the last 36 hours of a situation that’s unraveling. It’s the latest in a long list of fights that have so far failed to sink Trump’s candidacy, but something about this particular controversy feels different. It’s pushing some neutral groups off the sidelines (see the nonpartisan VFW’s strongly-worded response), it’s undermining the GOP’s mantle as the party of reverence to the military and national security, and it’s putting Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan in a particularly torturous bind as they try to defend the Khan family without so much as naming their own nominee….This moment could provide a last exit ramp for Republicans to withdraw their support for Trump before the heat of the general election, which now seems sure to draw even more outlandish reactions from a candidate who’s shown little deference to the party.
Todd and Dann tick off a list of conservative leaders who really seem to be looking for that exit ramp. And it’s 100% true that Trump’s attack on the Khans is indefensible. Besides being crude, indecorous, and unkind, it was unnecessary. There was no political justification for it.
The larger points about Mr. Khan’s activities as an immigration lawyer and sharia advocate, who worked for seven years in the law firm that represents the Clinton Foundation on tax issues, and that represents Saudi Arabia in dealings with the U.S. government, are not a hill to die on.
In fact, Khan’s connections to Hillary, the Clinton Foundation, and the Muslim Brotherhood might or might not need to ever be brought up in a political campaign. It’s quite possible Trump didn’t even know about them. Why pick this hill at all? It’s certainly a temperament and judgment issue for the GOP candidate.
But here’s why Trump will weather this flap.
1. Because the Khan connections are there to be brought up, and they are justifiably troubling for America.
2. And because the media would treat this whole situation very differently if it were reversed: if the Republican candidate had asked Khan to speak at the convention.
The second point first. It is a truth impossible to refute that if Republicans had put the Khans on the stage, the mainstream media would have gone into overdrive to background-check them up one side and down the other. It wouldn’t matter that Mr. Khan was a Muslim, any more than it matters to be black or female, when one speaks for Republicans or conservatives.
But the MSM does worse than that. It cooperates constantly in themes that project unfounded vilification onto conservatives and Republicans. The deck is stacked so that no matter what Republicans do, they will be branded as callous, uncaring, and vilely prejudiced – whereas Democrats can always carve out hills for themselves on which they are immune to attack (e.g., being publicly supported by a Muslim Gold Star family).
The media and Democratic politicians have made the mistake in the last eight years, however, of extending this perpetual risk of defamation beyond Republicans and conservatives, to the American people as a whole. And the people are increasingly sick of it.
William McGurn captured this point nicely in a Tuesday op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. Citing the scurrilous innuendo Democrats have routinely promoted against Republicans in the last 25 years, he said of Trump’s moment:
The truth is that Mr. Trump’s [being perpetually on] offense is in good part a creature of the campaigns Democrats have run against Republicans for decades. Sooner or later it was inevitable that voters, tired of both political correctness and playing defense, would opt for a Republican nominee who would give as ugly as he got.
Don’t miss what matters here. There are certainly Trump supporters who revel in the “giving ugly” part. But what matters is that Trump supporters are determined to break the straitjacket of political correctness entirely.
They understand that they are held back, held down, held underwater by political correctness. They see clearly that that’s the whole point. It’s a means of keeping them under a yoke. And they’re not going to stand for it anymore. This is the fight of their lives.
If the old-consensus leadership of the GOP and the conservative movement were actually standing for the people in this fight for the basic structure of our politics, Trump wouldn’t have a prayer. It’s because hardly anyone does stand for the people that Trump has been so inexplicably successful.
After Khan, Trump’s supporters will look around and see that still, yet, and always, no one else is standing up for the people against the systematic weaponization of political correctness.
And the first point above, about Mr. Khan’s connections, is just one slice of why that will be decisive.
There are few Americans who would not have sympathy for the Khans, or appreciate the sacrifice their son made in uniform. Certainly all of us who served would honor and remember him for it. Speaking for myself, I would never have criticized his parents as Trump has, in private or in public.
But to say that is not to say that I regard it as a non-problem for scholars of sharia law who have a record of advocating sharia to be practicing immigration law in New York, so they can bring more sharia-advocating Muslims into the United States. If Muslims want to come here, I welcome them – we have many wonderful Muslims here already – if they embrace American ideals and the American philosophy of law.
It was nice to see Khan hold up a pocket version of the Constitution when he spoke. But that’s all it was. Given literally everything else in his circumstances – his history of studying with the Muslim Brotherhood, praising its biggest leaders, advocating sharia, working for an international law firm that specializes in the field of sharia finance, working closely on immigration issues with Saudi Arabia, and being closely connected with the Democratic Party of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – it is perfectly reasonable to question how strong his commitment to the U.S. Constitution actually is.
The American people are like the rest of humanity: they don’t always express such reservations carefully, or with narrow precision. Just as a veil of unwarranted sanctification has been thrown over the Khans from the left, there have been blasts from the right that are based on circumstantial conclusions rather than evidence.
I see no reason, for example, to proclaim that Mr. Khan is an “agent” of the Muslim Brotherhood, or to imply that he is tarred with the entire brush of Hillary’s morass of corruption. He’s probably just a well-heeled professional from a relatively privileged Muslim background who is acting in good faith according to his lights.
But that’s exactly the point. Without Trump in the room, no one gets to say that: just what I said, and no more. No one gets to point out either that other people, having other lights – being concerned, for example, about the erosion of our rule of law and its Judeo-Christian philosophy – are also acting and speaking in good faith.
In Trump’s absence, we’re all strapped down in the straitjacket, constrained to say only what is politically approved about Khizr Khan’s body of work and its meaning for America – or to be silent, unless we’re willing to see our characters slandered or even our lives destroyed.
The leadership of old-consensus conservatism hasn’t been standing up effectively for the people, so that we can speak our minds: say what we mean to say, and not have the political lexicon itself turned against us before we even open our mouths. Instead, that leadership cowers before the cues deployed by the keepers of political correctness.
Understand that, #NeverTrump right. Until someone else “gets” that, Trump will just keep weathering the storm. He’s the only one doing this thing that so desperately needs to be done.