There several issues at play in the current controversy over the Republican Presidential Nominee’s response to sharp words directed towards him from a Gold Star family. On a broad scale, there is the issue both parties should reconsider regarding parading the loved ones of fallen heroes and the victims of various kinds of suffering for the purpose of political exploitation. The vulnerability of such people should be protected, not paraded, and these people should not be used to make a point that may not be directly connected to the charges levied at an opposing party. This parading represents the cheapest of cheap shots and needs to stop on both sides.
The situation at hand related to a dispute between the Republican nominee Donald Trump and a Gold Star Family, the Kahns, is another issue and allows us to see temperament, maturity and leadership of a Presidential hopeful – or a lack thereof. Some defend the Republican Nominee by saying that the Kahn family should not have veered into the lane of personal criticism directed towards Mr. Trump, but should have remained in the lane of praising the service of a fallen son and his heroic patriotism. That may be true, but that utterance is not what has kept the story alive.
It is the response of the Nominee that has given the issue life and why the discussion of the utterance continues. 1 Corinthians 6:12 comes to my mind, which discusses the issue of personal freedom – the freedom to behave or misbehave as one sees fit. It says, “I have the right to do anything…but not everything is beneficial…I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.” Both the Kahns and Mr. Trump have the freedom in our nation to say anything they want to say. The words may not be totally beneficial, but the freedom is there.
The Kahns are a grieving family and regardless of what one feels about their words, one fact is clear – they are not running for the Presidency of the United States and the expectations of the finesse, poise and wisdom expected of one pursuing that office are not applicable to them. One can debate other issues about their words, but they are a grieving family caught up in a political storm through the convergence of several circumstances and they are not themselves running for the executive office.
Mr. Trump is running for the highest office of political service in the United States. Wisdom, decorum, poise and maturity are a reasonable expectation of one running for such an opportunity of leadership. Mr. Trump clearly has the freedom to say what he wants to say, but as the Bible passage cited earlier reminds us, that doesn’t mean that his exercising his freedom will produce beneficial results or display a mastery of himself. If Mr. Trump had simply responded with a word of gratitude and appreciation for Captain Kahn’s service and ignored the rest, the issue would be resolved and aside from a few sound bites of Kahn’s family’s words, everyone else would have moved on. Mr. Trump’s fixation on “counterpunching” has transformed a delicate situation into a controversy and made him seem petty, or perhaps an unwise dupe who can be easily enticed to self-justification to the point of distraction. If the Kahn’s bother him this much, how much more a head of state who, knowing his oversensitivity, baits him into a personal war of words to the detriment of exercising sound judgement in the conducting of international affairs?
Freedom must always be guided by honesty, selflessness and self-control. Those who lead The Free, must exhibit these character traits to the highest degree. Unfortunately, this situation provides yet another example that in this presidential race, The Home of the Brave has no such persons on the horizon for Executive Leadership.