If there is one thing almost everyone can agree on about Donald Trump, it is that he does not take criticism lightly. Despite assuring an interviewer on intervew show 60 Minutes last month that he is “much more humble than you would understand”, Trump has proven that he does not react in a modest or reasonable way when people, including his fellow Republicans, offer their critiques.
Yesterday morning Trump decided that he would not be endorsing Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when he stands for re-election next week.
Echoing a comment that Ryan had made about Trump in May, Trump stated “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
This damning refusal to endorse the Speaker of the House, announced despite the fact that no such endorsement had been sought by Ryan, suggests that there will be a long queue of Republican critics of Trump who await the same treatment.
Here is the line-up of Republicans who have spoken out against the nominee. Perhaps they, like Ryan, will face the Republican presidential nominee’s wrath.
Ted Cruz, Senator for Texas
Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump’s nomination at the Republic National Convention was an important snub. Instead of embracing the party’s new nominee, Trump’s defeated rival for the nomination urged audience members to “vote your conscience”, breaking the pledge that all nominee hopefuls (except Trump) had made at the start of the race to support the winning candidate. Although Trump tried to seem unfazed by the Texas senator’s slight, telling him to “Just, Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself” and affirming that he “doesn’t want his endorsement”, it now seems even more unlikely that Trump is going to be backing Cruz 2020.
Rob Portman, Senator for Ohio
Last week Trump made incendiary comments about Muslim-Americans Ghazala and Khizr Khan, whose son Captain Humayun Khan died in Iraq in 2004 while serving in the US armed forces. Ghazala Khan said she remained silent during a speech about her son’s death at the democratic convention because she was overcome with emotion. Trump, reading her actions less sympathetically, put her silence down to a refusal, on her husband’s part, to let her speak.
Duly perturbed, Rob Portman, through a spokesperson, declared that he “does not agree with Donald Trump’s remarks and believes that Captain Humayun Khan was an American hero who gave his life for his country”.
Kelly Ayotte, Senator for New Hampshire
Kelly Ayotte also disapproved of Trump’s comments about the Khan family, especially his claim that he, the real estate billionaire, has also “made a lot of sacrifices”. She declared herself “appalled that Donald Trump would disparage [the Khans] and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family”. (Gold Star families are families who have lost a relative in military service, a no-go area for criticism in American political discourse.)
Roy Blunt, Senator for Missouri
Roy Blunt also weighed in on the Khan debate. He urged Trump to concentrate on the important issues ahead of the upcoming election, advising that he “focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton.”
John McCain, Senator for Arizona
A big name in the Republican Party concerned about the possiblity of a President Trump is 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. McCain, also offended by Trump’s comments about the Khan family, wrote an extended condemnation on his website, stating:
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. 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.”
While the last part of McCain’s statement seems like damage-control come far too late, it’s clear that Trump’s comments on the Khans, as well as his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, have for McCain at least, gone too far. Now Trump has managed to offend McCain as much as he has Mitt Romney, it doesn’t look like he will be going to either of the most recent Republican nominees for campaign tips.
Military matters are already a touchy topic between Trump and McCain, after Trump stated, speaking about McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” For McCain, whose sons also currently serve in the US army, one can understand why such statements are particularly galling.
Lindsey O Graham, Senator for South Carolina
After Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and suggestions that Obama may identify with radical Muslim terrorists in light of the Orlando massacre, Lindsey Graham spoke out. He said he had “run out of adjectives” for Trump. “I don’t think he has the judgment or the temperament, the experience to deal with what we are facing.”
Following Trump’s attack on the Khan family, Graham made a statement to ABC News: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”
“If you’re going to be the leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism,” the one-time 2016 presidential hopeful went on to say. “Mr Trump can’t. ‘Unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
Mark Kirk, Senator for Illinois
Mark Kirk was the first Republican senator to withdraw his endorsement of Trump, doing so in June. If that didn’t already mean he was out of favour, the former member of the House of Representatives has since continued to criticise Trump.
In his statement of withdrawal he said “I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President. I think we should send a strong message that racism and bigotry are not going to be tolerated in the party of Lincoln.”
More recently, responding to Trump’s comments about Mr and Mrs Khan, Kirk added “To Mr. Trump, I would simply say: hands off Gold Star families.”
Chuck Grassley, Senator for Iowa
Chuck Grassley not only spoke to the press about his distaste for Trump’s behaviour over the Khans, but also made a statement on his website regarding “the Khan Family and the Sacrifices of Gold Star Families”.
He said: “Mr Trump’s comments are not in line with my own beliefs about how the members of the military and their families should be treated, and respect for the people who serve our country is something both presidential campaigns could use more of.”
Richard Burr, Senator for North Carolina
Richard Burr also used the Khan family incident to separate himself from Trump.
On Monday he told a Wilmington TV station: “There’s no place in America for this. We need to thank those who commit the ultimate sacrifice, those who put on the uniform and defend this country and our ability to have elections, but I don’t think there will be anybody out there defending the statement that was made.”
Like many of the senators listed above, Burr did not name Trump directly, but clearly referred to his statement.
He went on to say “Captain Khan is an American hero in every sense of the term and the Khans deserve our sincerest gratitude.”
Deborah Ross, North Carolina’s Democratic Senate candidate, also used the event to criticise Burr. In a statement she said: “Sometimes you can’t have it both ways. What Donald Trump said was inexcusable and Richard Burr owes North Carolina’s military families an explanation of how he can continue to support Trump as Commander in Chief after his offensive comments.”
Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee
Perhaps most damning in his criticism of Trump is Mitt Romney. But despite articles up to very recently still considering his chances of becoming president, Romney need not fear a rebuttal of endorsement for Trump: he is not standing for re-election of any kind in October.
In March of this year, the 2012 Republican nominee made a full 17-minute speech against Trump, slamming him as a “phony” and a “fraud”.
Romney said: “Let me put it plainly, if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.
“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. We have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn’t because he had attributes we admired.
“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Trump is no fan of Romney either, having childishly lashed out against his predecessor in a rally in May (“he walks like a penguin”).
Romney was thwarted in his hopes for an alternative Republican nominee. He has said that he will neither vote for Trump nor Clinton.
But there is nothing else he can do. As more and more Republicans criticise Trump with every new divisive comment he makes, it is clear that the Republican Party is being pulled apart at the seams.