Trump support falls after ‘disastrous week’
Last week, Trump got into fights with top Republicans, the parents of a deceased US soldier, and a crying baby. He is ‘woefully’ unfit to be president, says Obama. Do his supporters care?
It was a bad week for Donald Trump. First he belittled the parents of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq, comparing his time as a businessman to their family’s sacrifice. Key Republicans, including former presidential candidate John McCain, condemned his words.
The next day he refused to endorse McCain or the House Speaker Paul Ryan in their re-elections — leaving the chairman of the Republican National Committee ‘apoplectic’. On that same day Trump told a mother to ‘get that baby out of here’ when it cried during one of his speeches, mere moments after he had told her not to worry about it.
It seemed like whenever he opened his mouth, he caused chaos — and America noticed. By the end of the week, his opponent Hillary Clinton was polling between nine to fourteen points ahead. A ‘new level of panic’ hit the Republican Party as some of their politicians began to endorse her: ‘I find Trump deeply flawed in endless ways,’ wrote one.
And there was still more to come. A journalist reported that when Trump met with a foreign policy expert, he repeatedly asked about America’s nuclear weapons. ‘If we have them why can’t we use them?’
In theory, America’s 6,970 nuclear warheads exist to deter other nations from striking first. But the president has absolute authority over if and when to push the ‘button’. Even if the army’s highest generals disagree, the president has the ‘power to kill millions’, warned a former nuclear missile officer. It would ‘permanently alter the geopolitical landscape’ if Trump were suggesting that the USA could one day launch its weapons first.
‘A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,’ warned Hillary Clinton when she accepted her nomination last month. Now even Trump’s own party is questioning whether his temperament is too volatile for the job.
Some Democrats have joked that Clinton should take the summer off and let Trump destroy himself. That would be a bad idea, but criticising a fallen soldier’s family has alienated many traditional Republican voters, and there is no sign that he will apologise for his words. His opponents now hope that as the campaign intensifies, people will see him for what he really is: a thin-skinned baby with no self-control.
But others are more wary. For Trump’s core supporters, his appeal lies in his refusal to be ‘politically correct’; every comment which shocks political elites only reinforces the view that he is a strong leader who is unafraid to say what he really thinks. One week’s polling is almost meaningless three months before election day, and his campaign rallies are as popular as ever: this unpredictable race is far from over.
- Are we witnessing a turning point in Donald Trump’s bid for the White House?
- What personal qualities could make someone ‘unfit’ to be president?
- She is unlikely to take the summer off. Write a letter to Hillary Clinton explaining what you think she should do in the final months of the election.
- Imagine it is November 9th, the day after Trump has been voted president. Create a newspaper front page which reacts to the news.
Some People Say...
“President Trump would be the biggest mistake of American history so far.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What will happen if Trump wins?
- Every other nation in the world will be watching very closely — Trump’s foreign policy decisions will affect everyone. Nuclear war aside, he has also said he would abandon free trade deals and questioned the necessity of the Nato military alliance. At home, Trump could occasionally be restrained by Congress and the Supreme Court — but his executive powers would still be extensive.
- What if he loses?
- Hillary Clinton would become America’s first woman president. However, Trump has begun to hint that he might not accept that result so easily. ‘I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged,’ he told Fox News last week. Even if he doesn’t challenge the result himself, his supporters are sure to be furious.
- Humayun Khan was killed while fighting in Iraq in 2004. At the Democratic Convention last month, his parents Khizr and Ghazala delivered a blistering speech against Trump. He has a ‘black soul’, said Khizr, and had ‘sacrificed nothing and no one.’
- Paul Ryan
- The Speaker of the House leads the House of Representatives, one of the two elected bodies (the Senate is the other) forming the US Congress (or parliament). Ryan has publicly endorsed Trump, but is quick to distance himself if he thinks a line has been crossed. Trump eventually endorsed Ryan on Friday.
- Nine to fourteen points
- According to a range of polls by Fox News, Marist College and NBC News.
- 6,970 nuclear warheads
- As estimated by the Federation of American Scientists. Nine countries (including the USA) have more than 15,000 warheads between them.
- There is not really a ‘button’ American presidents can press to launch nuclear weapons. But they are followed everywhere they go by a briefcase containing everything needed to give the order. Once the order is given, there is no one who can legally veto or disobey it.