Sorry John McCain, Donald Trump does represent the GOP: Will Republicans finally dump Trump after Khan attacks?

While top Republicans have rushed to condemn Trump's attack on Gold Star parents, they've kept up support for Trump

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published August 1, 2016 3:55PM (EDT)

Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, John McCain   (AP/Reuters/Gary Cameron/Chris Keane/Chris Usher/Photo Montage by Salon)
Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, John McCain (AP/Reuters/Gary Cameron/Chris Keane/Chris Usher/Photo Montage by Salon)

Political observers have been watching for two potential moments during the Donald Trump presidential campaign with great anticipation: His so-called "presidential pivot" and the moment at which top Republican backers in Congress finally disavow his antics.

With his attacks on Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, we may have reached the beginnings of at least one near impossible occurrence.

"I claim no moral superiority over Donald Trump," Arizona Senator and 2008 failed GOP presidential nominee John McCain said in a statement, condemning the Trump campaign's continued attacks on the family of fallen U.S. Muslim Army Captain  Humayun Khan.  In the lengthy statement, McCain went further to denounce Trump's suggestion that the Khans are to be viewed with suspicion, telling the Khans instead, "We're a better country because of you."

But in his condemnation, McCain was careful to differentiate between Trump and the Republican Party that nominated him to serve as their representative for a White House bid.

"The Republican Party I know and love is the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan," McCain made clear, challenging Trump "to set the example for what our country can and should represent."

"I claim no moral superiority over Donald Trump," the former Vietnam War POW said. "I am morally bound to speak only to the things that command my allegiance, and to which I have dedicated my life's work: the Republican Party, and more importantly, the United States of America."

"While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us," McCain said. "I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."

But unfortunately for McCain, who is locked in a tough primary battle this month, in 2016, Trump is the Republican party. McCain's statement ended with no indication he plans to withdraw his endorsement of Trump's presidential campaign.

And while McCain's otherwise strong condemnation should ultimately be judged for its lack of a principled stand against Trump, it still stands far above the official statements released by the two leaders of the GOP in Congress.

In a pair of statements put out over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan both condemned Trump's remarks on the Khan family without ever mentioning their presidential nominee by name.

"Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of ‎the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services," McConnell said in a Sunday statement. "And 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."

"America's greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it," Ryan said in his statement Sunday. "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."


By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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