Shortly before the Republican National Convention, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had spoken with Donald Trump several times about improving his “temperament” and sounding more “inclusive.” In particular, Ryan said he had cautioned Trump about his attack on the ethnic heritage of a Mexican-American judge. NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Ryan whether he had seen any subsequent changes in Trump’s behavior. Ryan answered: “I believe he’s going to endeavor, to try.”
Nearly two weeks after the convention ended, it’s clear that Trump is unreformed. It’s not just his beef with the parents of a slain soldier: Trump has spurned the Constitution, ridiculed morality, and dished out ethnic, religious, and sexual slurs. As these outbursts have continued, Ryan has spoken out just once, ignoring the rest of Trump’s offenses. He and other Republican leaders continue to support Trump. Here’s what Trump has said and done since the convention while the GOP leadership, for the most part, has looked the other way.
1. Smearing a dead soldier’s Muslim mother. During the Iraq war, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim, sacrificed his life to save his fellow American soldiers. This past Thursday, Khan’s father, Khizr Khan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention and pointed out that under Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, Humayun Khan would not have been allowed into the United States. On Friday, Trump was asked to respond in an interview with ABC News. Trump immediately changed the subject to Khan’s mother, Ghazala Khan, who had stood beside her husband during the DNC speech, wearing a hijab. “She had nothing to say,” Trump pointed out. “She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”
Trump was wrong: As Ghazala Khan explained in interviews and a Washington Post op-ed, she hadn’t spoken at the convention because it’s emotionally difficult for her to talk about her son’s death. Trump simply assumed, based on her faith and appearance, that she was being oppressed. Presented with a Muslim man who had given his life for America, Trump focused not on the soldier’s uniform but on his mother’s hijab. And rather than praise Humayun Khan for thwarting a bomber, Trump shifted to a cultural critique of Muslims, the same critique Trump has been peddling since mid-June. This episode makes it clear that Trump’s animus against Islam transcends the issue of terrorism.
2. Resisting religious nondiscrimination. After Trump proposed his Muslim ban in December, some Republicans warned him that discrimination on the basis of faith was un-American. They advised him to apply his immigration restrictions to countries rather than a religion. Trump is trying to comply with that advice legally, but he has signaled that he hates it and that he doesn’t understand why Muslims can’t be excluded as a class.
In a July 24 interview on Meet the Press, Trump mocked his critics: “People were so upset when I used the word ‘Muslim.’ Ooooh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’ “ He went on: “Our Constitution is great. But it doesn’t necessarily give us the right to commit suicide.” Trump has since repeated that criticism of the Constitution at campaign rallies. On July 28, Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade asked Trump whether he had “clarified” that his ban wouldn’t cover all Muslims. Trump replied noncommittally: “We’re going to territories. We’ll see.” In an interview on Monday, Sean Hannity pointed out that nearly all Syrian refugees recently admitted to the United States were Muslims. He asked Trump whether this meant that U.S. officials were discriminating against Christians. Trump answered:
In my opinion, they are. But we don’t take care of the Christians. You know, before the migration, a friend of mine [said that if] you come from Syria, if you’re Muslim, it’s one of the easiest places to come into the United States from. If you’re Christian, it’s impossible, virtually impossible to come into the United States. Very unfair.
It’s worth pointing out that Trump, while complaining that too many Muslims are theocratic, has no problem with Jews or Christians who claim divine authority for government. At a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, on July 25, a questioner asked Trump: “Will you stand by Israel 100 percent and do whatever it takes to preserve the nation of God?“ Trump, without hesitation, replied, “100 percent.”
3. Advocating punishment of Muslim communities. At a press conference near Miami on July 27, Trump declared Muslim neighbors and congregants responsible for terrorism in the United States. “I think that the people in the community know what’s going on, whether it’s in a mosque or it’s in the community. And they have to report these people,” said Trump. At the press conference and at subsequent rallies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump specifically alleged—contrary to fact checks that have found no evidence for his claims—that prior to December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, neighbors of the plotters saw bombs lying all over the floor of their apartment but didn’t report them. In his Iowa speech, Trump issued a warning to Muslims: “If a community isn’t going to report when they know something’s going to happen, those people have to suffer the consequences.”
4. Likening his business career to losing a child in war. In the ABC interview, Trump was asked about Khizr Khan’s charge that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one” for his country. Trump shot back: “Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s scriptwriter write it?” (Actually, Khan wrote it himself.) Then Trump—who had used five draft deferments to avoid service in Vietnam—boasted, “I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success.”
While depicting his accumulation of wealth as heroic, Trump mocks people who take physical risks. His foot-dragging in acknowledging the sacrifice of Humayun Khan is just one example. Last year, Trump dismissed Sen. John McCain’s ordeal as a POW in Vietnam. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump scoffed. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” More recently, Trump has ridiculed another Vietnam veteran, Secretary of State John Kerry, for breaking his leg in a bicycle accident. At two rallies last week, Trump raised his hand and offered a sarcastic pledge: “I give you my word, I will never enter a bicycle competition as long as I’m president.”
5. Using war to steal wealth. In his convention speech, Khizr Khan said his son “sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.” He advised to Trump to visit Arlington National Cemetery and “look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.” Trump, however, sees war as a business proposition. At his rally in Roanoke, and later during a speech in Toledo, Ohio, Trump said the United States should have seized Iraq’s oil. “Take the oil! Take the oil!“ Trump shouted at the crowd in Toledo. “To the victor belong the spoils!”
6. Rejecting military ethics. Khizr Khan brandished a copy of the Constitution and spoke of American values. Trump accepts no such restraints. Throughout his campaign, Trump has defended torture and the deliberate targeting of family members of terrorists. Since the convention, he has escalated his rhetoric. At several rallies, Trump derided his vanquished primary opponents for agonizing over whether to permit waterboarding. Trump told crowds that he, unlike his opponents, had no qualms. “I wouldn’t even think about it. Absolutely,” he bragged in Cedar Rapids.
Trump’s view is that the United States should behave no better than ISIS because scruples are a disadvantage. In Cedar Rapids, he complained that ISIS drowns and decapitates people, while “we’re playing by different rules.” In Harrisburg, he objected again to following a “different set of rules. They can chop off heads, they can drown people, they can bury you in sand. And we can’t waterboard. … It’s very hard when you’re not playing on a level playing field, folks.”
7. Glorifying success at other people’s expense. Trump often boasts that he sucked profit out of properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, leaving investors, contractors, and taxpayers holding the tab. Now he’s bragging about a Cincinnati apartment complex that sank into hard times after he sold it. “I had great success,” he told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday:
We bought it from HUD and turned it around. … And then we sold it at a tremendous profit, and we went on to the next. … After I sold it, the job went very bad. The job went very bad. I mean, it went—My timing was very good. … The timing was beautiful. … It lost a lot of its occupants. That’s how the timing was. It was, like, perfect timing.
Congratulations, Donald. Ohioans suffered, but you pocketed the cash.
8. Challenging the legitimacy of American elections. In Columbus, Trump told his followers, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged.” The next day, at a rally in Ashburn, Virginia, he claimed that a “crooked system“—apparently, the FBI—had allowed Hillary Clinton to “get away with” abuse of a private email server. In interviews with Hannity and the Washington Post, Trump also criticized recent court rulings against voter ID requirements, predicted fraud, and specifically cited precincts that recorded “practically nobody“ voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Trump didn’t make the connection explicit, but the context of his insinuations is racial. He raised his criticism of the courts three days after the Fourth Circuit struck down a North Carolina voter ID law for managing to ”target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The precinct results to which Trump alluded were in black neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and other cities. He offered no evidence of fraud, and post-election analyses have found that the recorded results in these precincts are perfectly plausible. But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his advisers from suggesting that a Trump defeat, by itself, would prove the election was stolen. As Trump put it to Hannity: “That election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
9. Injecting race into the Russia debate. At his Miami press conference, Trump said he would be better than Obama at improving relations with Russia:
Putin has said things over the last year that are really bad things, OK? He mentioned the N word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N word. You know what the N word is, right? He mentioned it. I was shocked. He has a total lack of respect for President Obama. No. 1, he doesn’t like him, and No. 2, he doesn’t respect him. I think he’s going to respect your president if I’m elected. And I hope he likes me.
There’s no evidence Putin has ever used that word, much less that he applied it to Obama. But the notion that Putin has used it, or must have used it, has floated around right-wing circles for some time. Trump’s defenders creatively plead that by “N word,” he might have been referring to Putin’s talk of deploying nuclear weapons against ISIS. But as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl has explained, that interpretation makes no sense: Trump has said the same thing, so he wouldn’t call such a comment bad or shocking. After the press conference, Stahl asked the Trump campaign to clarify Trump’s meaning. To this day, the campaign hasn’t responded.
Trump’s remarks about Putin echo his previous remarks about women. In 2013, Trump wrote that integrating women into the military was “dumb“ because it resulted in sexual assaults. His approach in both cases is the same: If somebody disrespects or abuses you because of your sex or race, Trump thinks the solution is to remove you.
10. Raising backlash as an argument against a female president. Trump has repeatedly invoked Obama’s race in tweets against the president. In 2014, Trump warned: “Sadly, because president Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won’t see another black president for generations!” Now Trump is using the same pitch against Clinton. At a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on July 27, he warned women not to make Clinton the first female president: “She’ll set you back a long way, women, if that happens! It’ll be a long way before it happens again. You better be careful what you wish for.”
Trump has also attacked Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but his angle against her is ethnic, not sexual. At least nine times since the Democratic convention, at rallies and in tweets, Trump has called Warren “Pocahontas.” The context is complicated: Warren’s purported Native American heritage is unverified, but it also seems to have been a nonfactor in her career. Nevertheless, Trump, who has a record of mocking Native American claims, calls her “Pocahontas” to flaunt his disdain for political correctness.
Trump’s behavior since his convention shows that nothing has changed. Whatever Ryan said to him has had no effect. Trump continues to use religion, race, and gender as political weapons. He spurns American values, military values, and common decency. Occasional dissents, such as Ryan’s statement of support for the Khan family, won’t cut it. Trump is comprehensively vile. If you stand with him, Mr. Speaker, you stand for nothing.