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Opinion

Trump gets away with insulting Mexicans, but not dissing McCain

One of the least appealing aspects of modern presidential candidates is that, to avoid saying anything that might prove to be an embarrassing, costly blunder, they cling to a rigid set of talking points that reveal as little as possible about what they really think and who they really are. What sets Donald Trump apart from that kind of timid, scripted politician is that he blurts out any thought that passes under his comb-over.

Trump’s unapologetic, call-‘em-as-he-sees-‘em style clearly appeals to a segment of voters who love straight talk -- the louder the better. But it also illustrates why the more typical candidate shuns candor: it can reveal way too much. In Trump’s case, he has revealed himself as a grandly narcissistic, boastful bully who is one of the least appealing human beings ever to seek the highest office in the land.

Trump improved his standing in the polls by making and refusing to retract disparaging comments about Mexicans who illegally cross the border. He characterized them as criminals and rapists, earning him the admiration of the GOP’s vociferous anti-immigrant faction. Now, though, Trump’s sharp tongue may have finally worked against him. Last week, Trump was in Arizona, whipping up crowds with slanders against Mexico and insults directed at various state Republican officials, including Sen. John McCain. McCain responded, describing Trump supporters as “crazies.” Then, at a forum in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, Trump hit back at the senator. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain, of course, still lives with the crippling injuries he suffered from five years of captivity and torture in the “Hanoi Hilton,” the infamous North Vietnamese prison where American prisoners of war were held. At the time McCain’s fighter jet was shot down and he was taken prisoner, his father was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, overseeing all American forces fighting in Vietnam. McCain’s captors offered to release him early because of his family connections, but he refused, insisting that he would not go home before his fellow POWs were also let go.

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Apparently, in Trump’s world, that is not heroism. Trump -- who avoided serving in the military during the war in Vietnam -- claims only to admire “winners.” Judging from his unceasingly self-admiring comments, the only person he truly believes is a winner is himself.

The blowback against Trump has been strong, especially from other Republican presidential candidates who were far less incensed by his observations about Mexicans than they are about his McCain attack. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been bumped off the campaign radar in the weeks since Trump announced his candidacy, said Trump’s dismissal of McCain’s heroism was more than absurd.

“It’s offensive,” Rubio said. “It’s ridiculous. And I do think it’s a disqualifier as commander in chief.”

Actually, what’s a bit ridiculous is that so many Republicans, until now, have been reluctant to openly challenge Trump’s qualifications to be president. Trump should be disqualified, not because he said something insulting and stupid about McCain and, by implication, every member of the armed forces who has ever been captured in war. He should be disqualified because he is temperamentally unsuited to be the leader of the world’s most powerful nation.

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Trump is an intellectually lazy, preening blowhard, not a man anyone but “crazies” would want as their president.


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