Last week, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump dropped his second headline-making comment of the race. Responding to statements from Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., in which McCain labeled Trump’s supporters on immigration “crazies,” Trump shot back that McCain wasn’t a war hero, because he had been captured. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said, paraphrasing a 2008 Chris Rock routine in Michael Scott-like fashion.
Trump’s shot was mean, nasty, uncalled for, and idiotic.
The media world immediately declared Trump’s campaign over. A few days before the comments, Huffington Post — a publication created by onetime failed California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington — announced that it would feature Trump in its entertainment section rather than its politics section. The Wall Street Journal editorial board opined, “It came slightly ahead of schedule, but Donald Trump’s inevitable self-immolation arrived on the weekend when he assailed John McCain’s war record. The question now is how long his political and media apologists on the right will keep pretending he’s a serious candidate.”
Trump’s rival candidates leapt on the opportunity to throw dirt on Trump’s political grave. Governor Rick Perry, R-Texas, said, “I have no confidence that he could adeptly lead our nation’s armed forces. His comments over the weekend should completely and immediately disqualify him from seeking our nation’s highest office.” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said, “I do think it’s a disqualifier as commander in chief.” Both trail Trump substantially in the polls.
Trump will, and ought to, take a serious hit in those polls after his McCain idiocy. But he will not go down this easily. That’s because Trump exemplifies two qualities many Republican voters seek: brashness and an unwillingness to back down in the face of critics.