Trump's Standard Conservative Playbook

 ·  Jon Soltz, Huffington Post   ·   Link to Article

John McCain is a war hero. 

I may disagree with him. I may think he's wrong about pretty much everything in politics and policy. And, I may even agree with Donald Trump when he says that John McCain hasn't done much to help veterans, as a Senator.

But he is a war hero. He could have left captivity early, but refused. He put other POW's lives in front of his own. That makes him a hero. Donald Trump was wrong when he said McCain wasn't, and wrong when he sarcastically added McCain is only a war hero because he got captured.

Wrong. Period.

But you know who else was a war hero?

John Kerry.

Yet, there I was, in 2004, at the Republican National Convention, seeing delegate after delegate walk past me, sporting Band-Aids with a heart on them, mocking John Kerry and his record in Vietnam. John Kerry saved lives in Vietnam, like Jim Rassman, who he pulled from the water, while under fire. He was awarded a Bronze Star with valor, for that, and Purple Hearts for wounds he sustained. Disgusting charges by "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" had made their way onto the airwaves, and despite ample evidence of them being false. And with that, Republican delegates denigrated and mocked someone who was every bit a war hero as John McCain.

You know who else was a war hero?

Max Cleland.

There was never any controversy as to whether Max Cleland earned his Purple Heart, or any of his other medals, in Vietnam. His three missing limbs are all the proof you need. Yet, the majority of the Republican party stood by and said nothing, when Saxby Chambliss (who got draft deferments like Trump) questioned his loyalty, and accused Cleland of siding with terrorists, over his own country, putting pictures of Cleland in an ad, with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. A war hero.

Ironically, in both instances, there was a voice in the Republican Party, that stood up and said, "No!"

Senator John McCain.

"Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield -- it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible," McCain told CNN, about the ad run against Cleland.

"I deplore this kind of politics. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable...I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam," McCain told NBC in 2004, before adding a backhanded compliment, "I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

Yet, despite his disgust, the Republican Party marched on, smearing and mocking Vietnam War Heroes. And, eventually, John McCain put his revulsion aside, and campaigned for Saxby Chambliss, and George W. Bush. 

Lesson: In the Republican Party, attacking someone's service can be acceptable, if you do it to win a race.

So, it is no shock that Donald Trump made the comments he did. The party gave him the green light to do it, by their own history. This may even help him in the GOP Primary. I would not at all be shocked to see his poll numbers not just survive this, in the end, but thrive. And, remember, in a fragmented race, Trump only needs to win over about 15-20 percent of primary voters.

Trump's comments will please a decent segment of the GOP voting population - the ones who laughed while wearing Band-Aids, and the ones who giggled like little school girls while linking a triple-amputee to Saddam and bin Laden. Those voters might represent all he needs to win a couple of primaries. And many of those people hate John McCain. Passionately and viciously.

They even went so far as to censure him for being too liberal. 

And we all know what these people think of war heroes who happen to be liberal, and what is an acceptable thing to say about them.

So, to all those candidates losing their minds and expressing outrage at Donald Trump now - where were you then?

Donald Trump's comments are sickening. But, so is the putrid selective outrage being displayed by his competitors in the primary.

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