Since the early days of Donald Trump‘s candidacy, politicians and journalists have channelled attorney Joseph Welch‘s famous question delivered to chief red scaremonger Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy. “Have you no sense of decency?” Welch asked McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings after the Senator alluded, as a diversionary tactic, that one of of Welch’s associates had ties to the Communist party. They were the magic words that broke McCarthy’s opressive spell.
Rep. Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, referenced Welch’s words in July 2015 in response to Trump saying John McCain, a POW during the Vietnam War, was “not a war hero” and that Trump “like[d] people who weren’t captured.”
In March 2016 it was Rep. John Lewis, in a tweet.
Most recently, it was Dan Rather in a Facebook post Friday describing Khizr Khan‘s speech at the DNC.
Mr. Khan is not a politician, but a citizen of the United States thrust into the spotlight by tragedy. To me his words echoed another perilous era of divisiveness. In the tenor of his voice last night, as he spoke with a proud immigrant accent, I could almost hear the echoes of “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
As if in answer to that question, Trump went on the attack. In a Sunday interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, in response to Stephanopoulos paraphrashing Khan’s assertion that Trump “wouldn’t’ve even let [Khan’s] son in America,” Trump replied:
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that. I saw him. He was—you know, very emotional and probably looked like—a nice guy to me. His wife—if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She—she was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that. And personally—I watched him. I wish him the best of luck, George—
There was also, as there always is, a tweet from the ever-wounded, ever embattled Trump.
I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2016
Khan’s wife, Ghazala, responded to Trump’s veiled, suggestive stereotype, explained in The Washington Post why she didn’t speak at the DNC. “Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.
That phenomenon she is describing, the ability to recognize and understand someone else’s pain, is empathy, something which Khizr Khan found lacking in Trump, telling Chuck Todd on Meet the Press today, “We have a candidate without a moral compass, without empathy for its citizens. The way he showed disrespect towards the Golden Star mother of this country, that says it all.”
But back to Ghazala Khan in her own words, which Trump seemed so interested in hearing. He got exactly what he deserved:
When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.
Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.