True American Greatness

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On Friday, July 17, 2015, Donald Trump called me at the offices of THE WEEKLY STANDARD. He wanted to tell me that even though I’d been critical of him, and indeed though I had said I couldn’t imagine supporting him for president, he thought I’d been fairer and more open-minded about him than some other critics. He even said that he expected he’d bring me around to his candidacy. We had a cordial if insubstantial five-minute conversation, which ended with him saying he had to go because his plane was taking off for Iowa.

The next day in Iowa, Trump engaged in a colloquy with pollster Frank Luntz. In the course of this, Trump said of John McCain, “He is not a war hero.” Luntz interjected, “He is a war hero.” Trump persisted: “He is a war hero because he was captured.” And he continued, “I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you.”

Controversy ensued. Trump refused to back down. I was on ABC's This Week the next day. I said, as I recall, that I judged Trump’s remarks loathsome and unforgivable. I also predicted that they would doom his candidacy.

I was spectacularly wrong on my prediction. I was right in my judgment.

John McCain failed to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, and he failed to win the general election in 2008. In 2016 Donald Trump won both the nomination and the general election in his one and only try. Trump’s conclusion from this is undoubtedly that he is a winner, and McCain a loser.

But victories and losses are transient. Each sometimes goes to the undeserving. McCain’s defeat followed eight years later by Trump’s victory is a reminder of this fact of life.

Donald Trump is famous for his tweets. John McCain is not. But two weeks ago, on July 4, John McCain took to Twitter from Afghanistan (the 10th time in 11 years he has spent Independence Day with American troops abroad). McCain tweeted:

And he added:

The noble simplicity of sentiment in McCain’s tweets is a world removed from Trump’s gaudy and boastful displays. And McCain’s demonstration of character and courage is a far more reliable guide to American greatness than the pronouncements of a president who speaks of it nonstop and embodies it not at all.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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