Trump takes on Kkhizr Khan. It is risky but it isn't crazy. Trump understands his brand.
It's not the economy, stupid. Its white fear and resentment, stupid.
Mr. Khan went in front of the Democratic Convention and reported on his son, Humayun's heroism. His son, a Muslim, told his unit to stay back and hunker down while he stepped forward to challenge an incoming vehicle. The vehicle exploded. Captain Khan was killed. He was awarded a bronze star and purple heart, posthumously.
The parents said that Muslim patriots like their son would be banned from America by Trump, that the entire family were patriotic Americans, and they have sacrificed for America. Then the appeal for religious tolerance: go to Arlington cemetery, Khan said, and see that there are patriots and heroes there from every race, religion, and ethnicity.
This is a strong case for tolerance, which is why the Clinton campaign put him on stage shortly before her.
|Trump takes on this?? Yes.|
Supposedly the smart move would be for Trump gracefully to honor Mr. Khan and to accept and embrace the patriotism of Khan, thus parrying the debate blow. It would be disastrous to take on the father of a self-sacrificing soldier and hit back. Right??? You don't criticize, you embrace. Right???
Not for Trump. Trump's response was to speculate that Mrs. Khan was present but silent because she--as a Muslim wife--was forbidden to talk. Then he criticized Khan for attacking him, saying Khan hadn't met him. Then he posited that he had done the equivalent of sacrifice by having contributed by making jobs and creating great structures.
Disastrous, right? Not for Trump.
Trump raised questions about the Muslim faith without actually asserting it. "You tell me," he said, having questioned if this isn't an example of the oppression and stifling of women. This, too, is Trump brand. He makes charges based on "well I've read in places" and "lots of people have told me" and in this case, simply wondering out loud. It is the equivalent of floating like a butterfly before stinging like a bee since the accusation is posited but its refutation doesn't entirely hurt Trump. He was just wondering.
Trump reframed the criticism by Mr. Khan, making this about Khan's otherness rather than their patriotism: Muslims--maybe, you tell me--have weird customs. And Muslims do dangerous, unfair, unprovoked attacks, right? Like right now. See how he criticized me without actually even knowing me personally, an attack out of nowhere, right?
Trump has an issue and a brand: Immigrants are different and have weird, bad customs. We aren't comfortable with them and don't want them. America was great without them. Sure, there might be some good ones in there, but even the good ones have weird, bad customs, the woman dressed in a scarf, saying nothing. Weird, right?
The core brand is not illegal versus legal. The Khans were here legally. The core brand is not patriotic versus unpatriotic. The Khans are unquestionably patriotic. Trump may have acted spontaneously and carelessly but Trump understands in his gut his core brand. Trump's brand is to reject otherness.
This weekend Trump dominates the news again. Wasn't Trump outrageous? Wasn't this self-destructive? Yes, and it was therefore newsworthy. But there was one other question that is place out there, one that Trump is satisfied to linger: Wasn't this an example of dislike and distrust of Muslims, even good ones??
Yes. That's the point. That's the brand.
In 1992 it was: It's the economy, stupid. In 2016 it is: It's white fear and resentment, stupid.