Trump's cover has been blown by a Muslim couple whose son died heroically for his country
Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30
Anybody who has ever visited Arlington National Cemetery - in its iconic location across the Potomac river from Washington DC - will be aware of moments of vast stillness which seem to embrace it in a kind of shroud.
The sense of American history, stretching back almost 150 years, lingers in the air. The seemingly endless rows of gravestones bear testament to the 400,000 and more for whom it is a final resting place.
Arlington is also a reminder of just how many United States soldiers have died serving country and flag, in various wars and battles, many of which are now consigned to the history books. And amidst it all are the might-have-beens for countless lives so often cut down in their prime.
This is a world of memory and remembrance, deeply ingrained in the psyche of millions of Americans, into which Donald Trump stumbled a few days ago. It has had ruinous consequences for his election campaign.
The fallout for him has been disastrous and most certainly he will not now be elected President of the United States. In a sense, he has been found out. The irony is that it took a Muslim father and mother - and even more so, their dead soldier son buried in Arlington - to do so.
Initially, it looked as if it would be just another brief interlude at the Democratic National Convention.
Khizr Khan, the father of 27-year-old Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died serving in Iraq in 2004, said a few words, which were made all the more powerful because of their simplicity.
Addressing Donald Trump directly, and speaking on behalf of his Muslim family, Mr Khan calmly pointed out that his son had sacrificed his life for the United States.
"You have sacrificed nothing and no one," he said.
Those seven devastating words will finish the political career of Donald S Trump.
On this occasion, the standard, aggressive, simplistic Trump response was not enough. The moral power of a father whose son had paid the ultimate price, fighting under the American flag, could not be countered.
Trump has been a politician verbally out of control for some time and it is no wonder that there are reports of growing discord among his backroom team.
Propelled by his addiction to the outrageous, his propensity to cause shock and personal offence, his disregard for all those who do not share his apocalyptic vision of the world and his visceral pleasure in scapegoating, he has remained a political accident waiting to happen.
His dismissive and insulting response to the Khan family may have unsettled many. But he made matters worse by suggesting that the mother of this American soldier, who gave his life for his country, did not speak up because of what he alleged were strictures put on her by her religion.
This was hard-heartened beyond any acceptable norms. The opinion polls over the last 48 hours are telling their own stark message and suggest that even some of the core Trump support base is starting to ebb away.
Of course, Trump himself is among a list of US politicians who did not have the physical courage to join America's armed forces when the call to arms came. His dubious excuse during the Vietnam War is that he had "something'' wrong with his feet. However, the overwhelming evidence is that he was a draft dodger, during those years when over 50,000 American soldiers died in Southeast Asia. He spent his time making money and enjoying a well-funded social life.
Senator John McCain, one of the most respected members of the Republican Party, comes from a family with a long proven military pedigree and is a Vietnam war hero of high stature. However, he is among those who have now clearly distanced himself from Trump.
Most pointedly, he refused to give a clear-cut answer when asked if he would trust Trump having control over America's nuclear arsenal.
Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood bizarrely came to Trump's aid this week. Eastwood has himself offered some classic asides on all sorts of topics over they years, including the conclusion: "The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice."
However, the irony of that remark was obviously lost on him, when, in a series of shoot-from-the-hip remarks, he made it clear that, whatever his personal reservations, he would be voting for the Republican candidate.
Eastwood is a noted supporter of the hard Right in the Republican party and, as for those who might be offended with the Trump response to the Khan family, he glibly advised: "Just f****ing get over it."
But whatever about the make-believe dramas of Eastwood-inspired movieland, out in the real world things are not quite as simple. Given all that has been said by Donald Trump in this election, it is indeed remarkable that it was a Muslim couple - and the legacy of their dead hero son - who finally blew his cover.