During my entire business career, I have always made supporting veterans a top priority because our heroes deserve the very best for defending our freedom. Our Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals are outdated dumps. I will build the finest and most modern veterans hospitals in the world. The current medical assistance to our veterans is a disaster. A Trump administration will provide the finest universal access health care for our veterans. They will be able to get the best care anytime and anywhere…

The reality is that John McCain the politician has made America less safe, sent our brave soldiers into wrong-headed foreign adventures, covered up for President Obama with the VA scandal and has spent most of his time in the Senate pushing amnesty. He would rather protect the Iraqi border than Arizona’s. He even voted for the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015, which allows Obama, who McCain lost to in a record defeat, to push his dangerous Iran nuclear agreement through the Senate without a supermajority of votes.

A number of my competitors for the Republican nomination have no business running for president. I do not need to be lectured by any of them. Many are failed politicians or people who would be unable to succeed in the private sector. Some, however, I have great respect for.

As the voluble Trump was already making a name for himself sweet-talking deals for his dad’s real estate developing company, McCain was clamming up in his filthy prison.

And as Trump drove around Manhattan in his father’s limo, McCain was refusing to mention his dad for fear of handing valuable intelligence to the enemy

As McCain remained in solitary confinement, tapping messages on the filthy walls to his fellow POWs in Morse code, Trump was out partying at legendary nightclubs.

Several years later, Trump was frequenting “Studio 54 in the disco’s heyday and he said he thought it was paradise,” Timothy O’Brien wrote in “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” “His prowling gear at the time included a burgundy suit with matching patent-leather shoes,” O’Brien wrote.

“We were over there, in uniform, fighting for our way of life,” Captain Charlie Plumb told CNN’s New Day. “We were in uniform to protect Donald Trump’s right to free speech.”

Plumb then twisted the knife. “I thought about this immediately when I heard Trump’s remarks: if it hadn’t been for men and women in uniforms, if we’d all gotten deferments in college, there’d be no opportunity to be a billionaire in the United States.”

[A] public attack on one veteran’s service is an attack on us all. Trump’s stupidity is especially egregious given its timing — right after the murder of one sailor and four Marines last week in Chattanooga, Tenn…

In the end, this isn’t really about Trump. It’s about the more than 20 million veterans in America who have put our lives on the line in defense of our freedom only to see our service disrespected for too long by politicians from both parties…

I’m sure Uncle Sam would be happy to consider an age waiver — and it even comes with a free haircut. A few minutes in boot camp and Mr. Trump would understand forever why Sen. McCain is a hero. And why every American has a moral obligation to support him and every other veteran.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest waded into the fierce national debate over Donald Trump’s denigration of Sen. John McCain’s status as a war hero, and echoed McCain’s call for Trump to apologize to all veterans for it

“Even in the midst of their competitive 2008 campaign for the White House, then-Sen. Obama expressed his admiration and deep respect for Sen. McCain’s heroism,” Earnest told reporters Monday…

“The most notable comment in this episode came from Sen. McCain himself, who I think pretty selflessly made clear that he didn’t really care about an apology … but he did believe that our military veterans are entitled to one,” Earnest said.

Few would offer their views for the record, owing to their positions working for other candidates or a desire not to put themselves into direct conflict with Trump. One described Trump’s attack on McCain as “lethal.” Another said he expects “a complete cratering” of Trump’s support. Still another predicted that Trump would become “a niche candidate” and a sideshow to the main event.

But others are less confident that Trump’s candidacy will take a nose dive, highlighting the combination of hope, fear and uncertainty that has gripped the party since Trump decided to run.

Phil Musser, a GOP strategist unaffiliated with a campaign, said anyone who claims to know what the next turn is for Trump is only guessing. “This guy has tapped into a very virulent strain of the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party,” he said, adding that he finds Trump’s comments personally offensive. “If he’s got a message that works for 15 percent of the people in the first five states,” Musser said, “he’s a factor, and he’s a factor with delegates.”…

Steve Schmidt, who was senior adviser to McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, says Trump’s GOP rivals and others in the party must step up and confront him. “What he represents has to be taken seriously. It has to be confronted seriously,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just a cancer on the Republican Party and the conservative movement. It’s a cancer on our politics as a whole. . . . My personal view is that it ought to trigger a fight for the soul and heart of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

Something strange has happened to the Republican presidential field since Donald Trump joined it a month ago: Mr. Trump and Jeb Bush are rising. Everyone else is falling in the polls, or seems stuck in place

He seems to be taking support from the most conservative and anti-Washington rivals in the field, particularly Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Mr. Bush’s rise in the polls, coming in tandem with Mr. Trump’s growing strength, may be a sign that so-called establishment Republicans are closing ranks around Mr. Bush, possibly as a result of Mr. Trump consolidating his own support. Marco Rubio may be feeling some of that shift with his sinking numbers.


[T]he GOP has courted Donald Trump for years. If they really objected to Trump, they should not have taken his money. But they were happy to do that.

Now they will, from their perspective, pay the price. Trump probably hurt himself in Iowa with both his comments on McCain and his comments on his faith. We may have reached peak Trump as a result. But let’s not kid ourselves. The establishment’s wooing of Trump going back to 2010 advanced Donald Trump within the Republican Party.

If they didn’t want him and they didn’t want his money, they probably should have told him then, not now that he’s ahead in the polls. The GOP has taken money and sweat equity from millions of people and broken most of their campaign promises in return.

If I believed in karma, I’d think Trump was payback.

The summer Trump polling spurt has nonetheless been instructive in exposing a growing problem on the political right. All too many conservatives, including some magazine editors, have been willing to overlook his hucksterism as he’s risen in the polls. They pretend that he deserves respect because he’s giving voice to some deep disquiet or anger in the American electorate…

As a standard-bearer for conservative ideas, Mr. Trump would likewise be a catastrophe. His only discernible principle is the promotion of his personal brand. His main message seems to be that because he’s rich and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he can afford to tell everyone to go to hell. Some Americans may find it satisfying 16 months from Election Day to tell pollsters they’d vote for him, but that doesn’t mean conservative elites should validate this nonsense…

As for conservative media elites, too many have adopted the view that there can be no adversary to their right. This was mainly a left-wing affliction in the last century as many liberals refused to condemn Communists. But today many on the right seem willing to indulge any populist outburst no matter how divorced from reality or insulting to most Americans. If Donald Trump becomes the voice of conservatives, conservatism will implode along with him.

[F]arcical candidacies are difficult for the GOP to avoid or end quickly because the party is averse to certain truths that would help inoculate it against demagogues

At times, transgressing against political correctness is a sign of intellectual integrity and bravery. More often, it requires no courage and is undertaken as a cynical gambit to get money, fame, or power from a block of disaffected Americans. Lots of figures who court conservatives are opportunists of this sort.

The fact that a public figure drives the left crazy is not itself a good reason for conservatives to rally around them, no matter how emotionally satisfying some find it. Supporting a politician on that basis is shallow, irresponsible, and shameful.

Bombastic rhetoric is not a proxy for conservatism. Too many GOP voters don’t see that, treating very conservative politicians like Jon Huntsman as RINO traitors while mistaking Trump-like poseurs for champions.

“I have the good fortune of knowing both John McCain and Donald Trump well,” [Sarah] Palin told CNN in an email. “Both men have more in common than the today’s media hype would have you believe. Both blazed trails in their careers and love our great nation.”

Palin, who attached a photograph of McCain returning from Vietnam to her email, wrote, “Sen. McCain dedicated his life to serving our country, and in my humble opinion the sacrifices made by all ethical service members are heroic — putting it all on the line to defend freedom IS heroic — and Donald Trump is a hero in another arena.”

Trump is the candidate giving voice to untold millions of fed-up Americans witnessing a purposeful destruction of our economy and the equal opportunity for success that made America exceptional,” Palin said. “We’re watching career politicians throw away our kids’ future through bankrupting public budgets and ripping open our porous borders which, obvious to all us non-politicians, puts us at great risk.”

Seeming to take issue with some of the language used by McCain in the past to describe attendees at Trump rallies and some of the Senate tea party members, Palin added, “Everywhere I go, hard-working patriotic Americans — not ‘crazies’ or ‘wacko birds’ — ask me to pass on to Mr. Trump encouragement to keep educating the masses about true ramifications of illegal immigration, and in general the real state of our union.”

Trump’s shooting for 20% of the GOP primary electorate in a very crowded field where no other candidate beside Bush (with whom there is likely zero overlap in support) has shown any ability to break out from the pack. He’s a jerk and a clown and arrogant beyond belief; but he is media savvy. And he’s deploying that ability well to get toward his number.

Is Trump a joke? Of course, he is. But if we judge politicians by any other standard than their ability to garner votes and polling support, we’ll soon run out of candidates. If clowns are above your dignity to report on, find another line of work. Especially with this primary field. Trump isn’t a distraction or mere entertainment any more than the rest of the GOP field is. In fact, this version of his candidacy (I can imagine him running more as a Perot-type centrist figure in earlier cycles) is the logical end result of the Tea Party-ization of the GOP since 2009. Trump is running an angry, populist campaign focused on xenophobia and “I don’t care what you think” aggression against ‘the establishment’ and ‘elites’ of all stripes. To think that trash talk against an establishment favorite, who is only marginally relevant to the politics of the moment in any case, will upset that apple cart is to thoroughly misunderstand the politics of the moment. Trump is the Frankenstein’s Hair Monster, finally walking among us, who is the inevitable product of a decades long embrace of clown-show anti-establishmentism and the stoking of xenophobic and racial paranoia.

This column has reported endlessly on the unnamed populist movement afoot in this country, one bridging both sides of the political aisle and uniting Americans against the establishment…

This is the tip of the iceberg. If you are “out here” — outside Washington, outside of the coastal elites — you are overwhelmed by the incompetency; if you are “inside” those, you don’t understand folks’ skepticism about everything related to government, including cutting a deal with Iran…

Donald Trump is going nowhere in this election cycle; neither is Bernie Sanders. But there is nothing wrong about the nomination races being a spectacle right now, because it demonstrates the volume of unrest among people looking for leadership.

Populism is lightning in a bottle. It is always bottom-up and always about people looking for a leader, not a circus barker leading a parade of tigers and jugglers on a small-town promenade.

Trump has taken trolling to the next level by being willing to offend members of his own party. Ordinarily, this would be a counterproductive strategy. In a 16-candidate field, however, you can be in first place with 15 or 20 percent of the vote — even if the other 80 or 85 percent of voters hate your guts…

It’s much harder to say what will happen to Trump’s polling in the near term, however. That’s in part because it’s hard to say exactly what was driving his support in the first place. Trump wasn’t doing especially well with tea party voters or with any other identifiable group of Republicans. My guess is that his support reflected a combination of (i) low-information voters who recognized his name and (ii) voters who share Trump’s disdain for the trappings of the political establishment and (iii) voters who were treating him as an inside joke or a protest vote, making him vaguely like an American equivalent of Beppe Grillo. None of them will necessarily be deterred from declaring their support for him because of his comments about McCain. Some of them might even be encouraged

After 12 years of writing on the Internet, I’ve learned that the old adage is true. Don’t feed the troll. The only way to kill a troll like Trump is to deprive him of attention.

Forty years ago, John McCain was a war hero. Since then he’s mostly been an asshole. The problem is you can’t out-asshole Donald Trump. McCain is in the Superbowl of assholery and hopelessly outmatched. He was doing assholery-as-usual last week, sneering at Trump’s supporters as “the crazies”. On recent polls that’s getting on for 20 per cent of the Republican vote. If 20 per cent of Republican “crazies” take the same umbrage at McCain’s sneer that Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, Reince Preibus et al have taken on McCain’s behalf at Trump’s, then Hillary will be President with a Democratic Senate and maybe even House…

Finally, re that “asshole” business, I should add that I don’t mean it as a criticism. Personally, I’d like it if Calvin Coolidge were on the ticket, or indeed the Marquess of Salisbury. But they’ve decided to sit out Campaign 2016, so one must take what one can get. And a citizenry that votes for an asshole is less deluded than one that votes for a messiah. Thus, voting for, say, Silvio Berlusconi (a kind of wealthier mini-Trump, and yet the third longest serving prime minister in Italian history, after Mussolini and Giolitti) is less psychologically unhealthy than voting for Barack Obama. And, come to that, less damaging to republican virtue than voting for the previous guy’s wife or brother.