There is a long-running gripe within Democratic circles that the expectations for Donald Trump have been set so exceedingly low that there is virtually nothing he could do to imperil his candidacy.
Nothing about Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief forum on veterans’ issues ― the first event featuring both presidential candidates ― alleviated that concern.
Much of the coverage from the evening centered on the way in which it was moderated ― heavy, as it appeared to be, on the grilling of Clinton’s adherence to email protocol and light on the fact-checking of Trump. Overshadowed, to a certain degree, were a series of statements from the Republican nominee that would have surely sparked massive controversy had they been uttered by any other presidential candidate in any other election.
But the sheer number of them, and the fact that it’s become expected for Trump to say outlandish things, meant they were treated almost casually, like run-of-the-mill utterances as opposed to objective head-scratchers:
1. Threatening To Fire Generals
Trump called for firing most, if not all, of the current military brass, and actively ridiculed their experience and judgement.
“I think under the leadership Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing for our country,” he said, adding that when he’s in office, “they’ll probably be different generals, to be honest with you. I mean, I’m looking at the generals.”
Generals are not political appointees. They have defined terms and typically are not removed simply because an official wants to clean house. But beyond the factual issues with what Trump said, there is the political context. Imagine, for a second, John Kerry making a similar comment during the 2004 presidential campaign and consider the filleting that he would have endured from President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
2. Embracing A Foreign Autocrat
Trump raved about Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings, and when pressed about some of the ghoulish and autocratic traits of the Russian presidency, he drew a moral equivalence with Obama (with Putin coming out on top). Two former top strategists to Mitt Romney noted how outrageous and unpatriotic this type of comment would have appeared in 2008 ― had Obama been the one making it.