John McCain: Trump Does Not Have ‘Unfettered License to Defame Those Who Are the Best Among Us’

(The Washington Post) -

Republican Sen. John McCain, Ariz., who has shied away from criticizing Donald Trump even after the GOP presidential nominee questioned his military service last year, sharply criticized Trump Monday for his handling of criticism from the parents of a Muslim Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

“He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service,” McCain said in a lengthy statement issued by his Senate campaign Monday morning. “I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee praised Capt. Humayun Khan for his valor and sacrifice, and thanked his parents, who spoke against Trump at the Democratic National Convention last week, for emigrating to the United States. “We’re a better country because of you,” he said.

McCain’s response is among the strongest from any major Republican leader to Trump’s remarks, which included questioning why Capt. Khan’s mother, Ghazala Khan, did not speak when she appeared alongside her husband, Khizr, last week. Other GOP leaders — including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — defended the Khans without mentioning Trump.

Trump last year questioned whether McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent five-and-half years as a North Vietnamese prisoner, was indeed a war hero. “I like people who weren’t captured,” he said.

But McCain, who is locked in a difficult re-election campaign, largely brushed off the attack and has repeatedly pledged to support the GOP presidential nominee. In responding to the Khan controversy Monday, he went farther than Ryan or McConnell, but he stopped well short of fully denouncing Trump and withdrawing his implicit endorsement.

“I challenge the nominee to set the example for what our country can and should represent,” he wrote. “Arizona is watching. It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party. While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.”