New York Times (Editorial)
August 2, 2016
Just when it seems that Donald Trump could not display more ignorance and bad judgment or less of a moral compass, he comes up with another ignominy or two. This weekend he denigrated the parents of a fallen American military hero and suggested that if elected he might recognize Russia’s claims to Ukraine and end sanctions.
Mr. Trump’s divisive views helped him capture the Republican presidential nomination. And even as he creates a political whirlwind with each utterance, leading members of his own party haven’t the spine to rescind their support. Sure, some have come out with strong criticisms, but none have gone far enough. Repudiation of his candidacy is the only principled response.
On Sunday on ABC, Mr. Trump’s comments on Ukraine demonstrated even less knowledge about world affairs than suspected. His remarks also reinforced suspicions that he is sympathetic toward Vladimir Putin, Russia’s authoritarian, anti-Western president.
Mr. Trump seemed confused about Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its efforts to wrest other parts of the country from Ukraine’s control. “He’s not going into Ukraine, O.K., just so you understand,” Mr. Trump said, apparently unaware that Mr. Putin sent troops there two years ago and that the international community still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine. Russian troops have been seen, and sometimes killed, in Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine where an insurgency is fighting the Ukrainian government.
The United States and the European Union have condemned the land grab, which is at odds with post-Cold War commitments, and imposed sanctions that Mr. Putin is desperate to have lifted. Mr. Trump’s willingness to support Mr. Putin’s claim on Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, coupled with his lack of commitment to NATO, is good reason for Europe to fear for the future of the alliance if he becomes president.
There are other reasons to wonder about Mr. Trump’s friendly view of Mr. Putin. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a political consultant for the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and for a former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced out of office by anti-Russian forces in 2014. Also, as Mr. Trump acknowledged, his supporters watered down language in the Republican Party platform to omit support for sending weapons to Ukraine.
Mr. Trump’s derision of the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber, was deplorable and mystifying. Why would a presidential candidate mock the parents of a soldier who died in combat?
At last week’s Democratic convention, Captain Khan’s father, Khizr Khan, with his wife, Ghazala Khan, by his side, criticized Mr. Trump for proposing to ban Muslim immigration to the United States and accused him of having made no sacrifices for his country. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump implied that Mrs. Khan did not speak at the convention because her religion did not allow it, and he equated his “sacrifices” as a businessman to those of the grieving parents. On Monday, Mr. Trump kept at it, complaining on Twitter that Mr. Khan “viciously attacked” him.
Some Republicans, like the House speaker, Paul Ryan; the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell; and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire released statements defending the Khans. Yet they still refuse to back off their support for Mr. Trump.
Few carry as much weight on military matters as Senator John McCain of Arizona, himself a decorated hero of the Vietnam War, who issued a statement Monday sharply criticizing Mr. Trump, saying, “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party.”
It’s hard to imagine, a year into the campaign, that Mr. Trump could ever set such an example. The truth is, it’s time for Mr. McCain and other Republican leaders to set an example for their party by withdrawing support for Mr. Trump.
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