Early Monday morning, Donald Trump was tweeting about Khizr Khan again. After everything he'd said over the weekend, it didn't seem possible he could think of anything to add. But then you remember that this is Donald Trump we're talking about, a man who has never found a hole that couldn't be dug a little deeper just by whispering "believe me" into it.
It's hard to believe that Khan — an immigrant, immigration lawyer from Virginia, and father of deceased Army Captain Humayun Khan — spoke at the Democratic convention less than a week ago, given the massive reaction his words have already spawned. After a year of listening to dozens of arguments against Trump, Khan's passionate, simple speech felt new. "Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?" Khan asked. "Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
What followed was an entirely predictable example of Newton's third law of Trump: "Every action against Trump produces an unequal and opposite defensive reaction." This time, he did not turn to the preexisting template for all political situations involving fallen soldiers — a cocktail of condolences and thanks for service. No, even after a moment when he was being reprimanded for demonstrating a complete lack of empathy, Trump has only thought of himself in response. He also, per usual, can't stop talking.
Here is a list of all the ways he has defended himself against the father of a dead soldier so far:
1. He told Maureen Dowd, "I’d like to hear his wife say something." He later added on ABC News, "If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say ... Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."
Ghazala Khan, who stood onstage with her husband at the Democratic convention, later wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining why she didn't speak. "Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself," she wrote. "What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?"
2. Trump complained to George Stephanopoulos that he has made sacrifices. "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices," he said. "I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot." If you look up "sacrifice" in the dictionary, there is not a definition that includes building tall towers with your name on them.
3. On Saturday, Trump released a statement that said, "Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things." In fact, the Constitution does say that people have the right to stand in front of people and say things. It does not, however, have an Article XII, which is something else that Trump asserted about this document he knows so intimately.
4. By Monday, he was attacking Khan for doing interviews on TV all the time, which is kind of like watching a chainsmoker complain about suffering from secondhand smoke, or witnessing someone accuse others of supporting the Iraq War without acknowledging they did the same thing.
Donald Trump has also tried to defend himself by saying that this debate is about RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR, not a father disappointed by the complete lack of empathy shown by a presidential nominee. When a CNN anchor asked a Trump advisor what this grieving father had to do with RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR, he didn't have a good answer, because there isn't one.
5. Other Trump surrogates have been busy trying to defend the candidate too. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said on CNN that if "Donald Trump was the president, Captain Khan would be alive today because he never would have engaged in a war that didn't directly benefit this country. He’s been very clear about that fact and said I don’t support Iraq and I don’t support Afghanistan." He failed to note that Trump did support the Iraq War. On the other hand, Khan may have survived simply because his parents may have not been able to come to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates if Trump had been president already.
If that weren't bad enough, a longtime Trump friend and advisor tweeted, "Mr. Khan more than an aggrieved father of a Muslim son- he's Muslim Brotherhood agent helping Hillary" on Monday. Some conservatives have a tendency to bring up the Muslim Brotherhood every single time Muslims appear in the news.
While we can't keep our eyes off of this extended montage showcasing Trump's mordant view of the world, everyone in the Republican Party looks determined to pretend as though nothing has to change. Of course they disagree with Trump — didn't they tell you they don't always agree with everything he says? But if you're a leader of the Republican Party, are you prepared to keep distancing yourself from Trump without jumping off the island altogether, even if it means walking around in trash, surrounded by increasingly unfriendly waters, for the months until November?
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan released a statement that read, "Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added, "As I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values." Senator John McCain said, "I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates." Mike Pence, who agreed to be Donald Trump's vice-presidential candidate after not even voting for him, released a statement on Sunday that read, "Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American." Hours later, here's what Trump tweeted:
Further down the ladder, Republicans less worried about the fate of a congressional majority have had less of a problem leaving the party this year, or refusing to support its most visible face. Representative Mike Coffman said, "Having served in Iraq, I’m deeply offended when Donald Trump fails to honor the sacrifices of all of our brave soldiers who were lost in that war." Jeb Bush basically feels the same way.
Florida and Colorado, you might remember, happen to be important swing states. There are around 1.6 million veterans in Florida.
As Trump has continued to insure that we will keep talking about this story, Khan keeps talking too, hoping that it will be easier to understand why Trump offends so many if voters hear the story of one horrified, patriotic, grieving family. "The world is receiving us like we have never seen," he told CNN. "They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul."
Ryan and McConnell haven't erased their endorsements for Trump, and Khan has said that simply saying they don't want a Muslim ban isn't enough, especially if some of them can't even bring themselves to say Trump's name when saying they think the Khans are heroes. Ryan and McConnell, Khan said on Meet the Press this Sunday, have a "moral, ethical obligation to not worry about the votes but repudiate him, withdraw the support. If they do not, I will continue to speak, and I am speaking."
And even if he didn't stop speaking, they can count on Trump continuing to do so.