Even by Donald Trump's standards, his war of words with Khizr and Ghazala Khan — the Muslim parents whose son died fighting for the United States in Iraq — has been a truly ugly piece of political theater. Trump's unabashed attacks on the Khans left top Republicans scrambling this weekend, with many denouncing Trump. One Republican U.S. rep even announced he'd vote for Hillary, while another longtime GOP strategist urged the nation to vote
Miami's most prominent current Republican candidate wouldn't go that far, though. While defending the Khans' right to speak out, Marco Rubio didn't explicitly condemn Trump's attacks.
“I think his parents are heroes, and they have a First Amendment right to speak out on their politics, as all Americans do,” Rubio told reporters in Clearwater. “Their son died for the Constitution, and I honor that.”
That rebuke doesn't go nearly as far as other prominent Republicans, including Rubio's old mentor Jeb Bush:
This is so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country. https://t.co/TQcMuwXTKV— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 31, 2016
Bush's longtime top adviser, Sally Bradshaw, went even further. In a weekend interview with CNN, she announced she's leaving the Republican party over Trump's campaign.
The nation is "at a crossroads and have nominated a total narcissist, a misogynist, a bigot," Bradshaw said. "This is a time when
Rubio, to his credit, at least stood up for the Khans, whose son Humayun died fighting in Iraq in 2004. As Tampa's Democratic mayor, Bob Buckhorn, pointed out on Twitter, Florida's most prominent Trump enablers — Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — have said nothing on the matter.
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In many ways, of course, the Khan story is a snapshot of typical political tightrope-walking. Rubio is facing a challenger from the right in self-styled Trump acolyte Carlos Beruff, which is one reason he has promised to vote for the GOP nominee despite his months of withering attacks on the Donald on the campaign trail earlier this year.
But like so much of this campaign, the Khan story seems different. There's a reason everyone from Paul Ryan to John McCain has condemned Trump for his continued attack on a family whose kid died fighting in a U.S. uniform, while Trump himself got five deferments to avoid service in Vietnam.