Donald Trump has bungled his response to Khizr Khan, and I think it is pretty obvious. The biggest reason for this was due to one of his most significant weaknesses: his inability to say nothing. Having watched Khan’s speech at the DNC I can say that it was pretty much a non-factor. As far as speeches go it was not great. The media has been going on and on about how powerful it was, but I don’t really see it. Obviously their son’s sacrifice is something to be respected and not belittled, but that’s not the issue here. Is seems to me that there were two good ways Trump could have dealt with Khan’s claim that he “sacrificed nothing and no one” for America.
Response #1 Don’t Touch It
The first good response would have been to say nothing about it. As far as potential political snares go, that one looks like a shiny bear-trap with freshly sharpened teeth. Most people would take one look at that and make a wide berth around it. This is Donald Trump’s primary issue. He’s like a kid who is slow to learn that you don’t touch the hot element on the stove-top no matter how interesting it looks. If he had said nothing, then Khan’s indictment would have melded in with the rest of the DNC song and dance and been forgotten. Once he did respond, however, the media was able to put up headlines about how he was in a fight with the parents of a fallen war hero. Albeit he has no bone to pick with the son Capt. Khan and has said nothing directly about him, but that doesn’t matter. Trump has once again forsaken the easy and smart path of not saying anything and embroiled himself in an unnecessary media scuffle.
Response #2 Flip it Around
There is always the possibility that it would have come up anyway in an interview. (Which it did) In that case there is a great response possible for Trump which he failed to use: “What has Hillary sacrificed?” This is not a campaign between Trump and the Khan family. It is a campaign between Trump and Clinton. Khan’s indictment that Trump “Sacrificed nothing and no one” was actually a dangerous gamble to make at a convention on behalf of somebody who has sacrificed nothing and whose husband actually worked the system to avoid service in Vietnam. Sure, Trump has his own sketchy past related to Vietnam service, but if you can draw blood on both sides, then that’s better than just shooting your own foot. His best response would have been to point out the fact that the Clinton’s have spent most of their political lives making public service look more like a gravy train than sacrifice of any kind.
Of course Trump used neither of those responses to Khan’s statements and threw fresh meat to the media. I don’t care a whole lot about image when it comes to politics, but it irks me when people miss the proverbial free throws.