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Donald Trump gets bum rap



Donald Trump, pragmatist

The mainstream media are railroading Donald Trump. The dust-up on what he thinks of John McCain gives the latest self-serving example. And Frank Luntz brings shame on himself and on the Fox News Channel for having any part of it.

What did Donald Trump say?

The video below shows what Donald Trump said, why he said it, and what he said before and after. To begin, he rounds on Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). Why? Because John McCain presumed to practice psychiatry without a license. He accused Donald Trump of “firing up the crazies.” Understand the context: Trump attracted an overflow crowd to a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. He had to move the rally at the last minute, to take care of that crowd. So McCain saw the size of that crowd and cried out, “All of you are crazy!” Or words to that effect.

Donald Trump in 2011

Donald Trump speaking to the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo by Gage Skidmore; CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License.

McCain forgot the first rule of an officer: to stand by your men. Donald Trump did that.

Now we come to the critical part of the video, one minute and forty seconds in. “Frank,” he says to Frank Luntz, “let me get to that. He is not…a war hero.” Listen carefully to the inflection. Donald Trump started to say this: John McCain does not deserve to have no one criticize him for anything. He then uttered the phrase “a war hero.” But he meant, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in Viet Nam? Why should I defer to him automatically on account of his war record?” Then he said,

He’s a war hero because he was captured. I prefer people who weren’t captured; I hate to tell you.

If Donald Trump chose his words less than carefully, he made his mistake here. He ought to have said,

I sympathize with John McCain or any of our pilots who crashed behind enemy lines, where the enemy could capture them. I applaud his endurance of his five and a half years as a POW. I applaud his refusal of early release, to stand with his fellow pilots. But that does not excuse his record in the United States Senate on letting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs become the poster child for dysfunctional government it has now become. And it certainly does not give him the right to call me, or my rally attendees, crazy!

It doesn’t make any difference

The mainstream media have a problem. And they will never admit it. Their problem: what Donald Trump says, makes no difference. They would never endorse him anyway. And furthermore: they have no standing to criticize him.

Sharyl Attkisson parsed Trump’s words, and the critical article about him in The Washington Post. Her verdict: the Post told a version of the exchange that doesn’t square with the facts. How? They accused Donald Trump of saying McCain’s capture by the enemy made him not a hero. Play the video for yourselves. Donald Trump said no such thing.

Yesterday Donald Trump came out swinging. He said the one thing no one wants to talk about. The mainstream media, and for that matter the other Republican candidates, have no standing to criticize him.

When you hear one person criticize another, you must judge two things:

  1. The merits of the jibe, and
  2. The standing of the one making it.

Too many people ignore standing. Real judges don’t. Before they even begin to judge merits, they assess standing. And the best proverb about standing to criticize, runs: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Not to mention Jesus Christ’s advice about planks and motes in eyes.

As an aside: has any of you seen a doctor interview a patient to test whether to admit him to a psych ward? They ask patients to explain proverbs. And they ask about glass houses and stone-throwing more often than about any other proverb. Your correspondent did that often in his core clinical clerkship in psychiatry.

The point: anyone should understand that no one has standing to criticize another for a thing he does himself, and won’t apologize for! Did Frank Luntz or anyone else ask Senator McCain to apologize for, or even to explain, calling people “crazy” for overflowing a rally venue to hear Donald Trump speak?

Not only that: no one can properly judge the merits of a case, who has a stake in the outcome of that case. So of course Donald Trump does not need lectures from:

  1. Candidates who oppose him, or
  2. Media people who also oppose him and even slant the news. Sharyl Attkisson caught The Washington Post doing that exact thing.

I addressed the merits of the jibe above. They amount to a bad choice of phrase. And even that didn’t cover Frank Luntz’ real problem. His problem seemed to be, “But he’s a war hero! How dare you criticize a man of his record?”

Mr. Luntz, you stepped way out of line. You gave a prize example of the logical fallacy of argumentum a gradis, or argument from the earlier achievements of the one making the argument. If you (Frank Luntz) want to lose my respect forever, repeat that question “How dare you criticize a (wo)man of his/her/my/whoever’s talent/experience/endurance/whatever?” I reserve the right to criticize anyone who today falls down on the job, tells a lie, or shows himself insane as Dr. Albert Einstein defined the term. Donald Trump likewise reserves, and deserves, that right.

One more thing

Frank Luntz told the hosts of Fox and Friends he expects Donald Trump to form a “third party” to keep running. He then spoke of “a certain segment of the population” who like the Donald Trump style of campaigning. Mr. Luntz, this “segment of the population” likes this of Donald Trump:

  1. When he criticizes a person or a policy, his criticism has merit. No attempt to impeach his criticism has yet passed logical muster.
  2. He has more standing to criticize government policies, and the persons and groups who make, facilitate, and excuse them, than any other candidate in either party. Bar none.

In the immortal words of Donald Trump himself: Frank, you’re fired. Senator, you’re fired. Anyone else?

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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