Recently, in response to Donald Trump’s angry sputtering about Khizr Khan’s remarks at the Democratic Nominating Convention, Khan, father of a fallen soldier, said that Trump “is a black soul.” Given that Trump, who seemed to feel an urgent need to respond, chose to level vicious, personal attacks against Khan and his wife, both grieving the death of their son, rather than calmly try to refute their concerns about his apparent lack of basic American values, Khan’s response seems reasonably apt. Trump’s Khan-inspired vitriol has been almost universally condemned – even leading one Republican congressman to declare that Trump is a “national embarrassment” and that he will switch his vote to Hillary Clinton.
All of which leads us to the response of our own Republican Senator, Roy Blunt. Blunt, who used student deferments to sit out the Vietnam War, conceded that war is hard on parents, recalling “how much I worried about my son Matt during his years of active duty.” He quickly shifted, however, to the question of how best to win political contests, adding that “my advice to Donald Trump has been and will continue to be to focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism, whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton.” And the Devil take the hindmost.
The whole Trumpalooza has been hard on Blunt, who has been reduced to the metaphorical equivalent of mumbling softly into corners lest folks really hear his responses to the Trump phenomena. From the beginning he has tried to waffle while avoiding the appearance of waffling. He gave Trump a weak endorsement, but didn’t attend the conference and has otherwise tried to keep his head down. He doesn’t want to offend the rabid out-state Trumpkins, but knows that, given his tightening race against Democrat Jason Kander, neither can he offend the more liberal, urban Missourians who are everyday more and more appalled by the Trump spectacle.
It’s important to note that Blunt in no way repudiated his earlier endorsement of Trump or explicitly condemned Trump’s ugly display; instead, he murmured a few conciliatory cliches and then got down to the political money-man’s meat-and-potatoes, how to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. Trump may be a black soul, but at least he is what he is openly, unlike Blunt, a manipulative operator who managed to translate a series of inhumane insults into a question of political decorum.
Trump may be a “black soul,” but, by the same measure, shouldn’t we consider a man to be utterly soulless who confronts that black soul without revulsion but instead with an eye to his own benefit.