Ashburn, United States, Aug 2 – He is uncouth, impulsive and belligerent. But Donald Trump is changing for no one during the US presidential race, and despite his controversial ways, supporters say they respect the billionaire candidate’s style.
Trump’s unvarnished delivery has become a hallmark of his extraordinary White House campaign, getting him into trouble with strategists, military veterans and fellow Republicans as much as it endears him to his fans.
“That is one of his draws,” 53-year-old Shelley Schimkus, a stay-at-home mom who attended Trump’s rally in Washington’s Virginia suburbs on Tuesday, told AFP.
But Trump’s lack of messaging discipline and propensity to antagonize during speeches and interviews recently have prompted alarm, even unease, in some quarters that he is not adjusting his temperament or style as he shifts to a head-to-head battle against Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, he called his Democratic opponent “the devil,” ratcheting up the rhetoric from the “Crooked Hillary” sobriquet he has used throughout the year.
He sparked outrage over the weekend when he aggressively countered the claims of Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in action who said Trump had “sacrificed nothing” for his country.
On Tuesday, the 70-year-old real estate mogul was at it again.
After Trump received a Purple Heart from a military veteran, a moment most presidential candidates would have treated with reverence, Trump blurted out how he had “always wanted to get the Purple Heart” and that it “was much easier” to receive it on the campaign trail than by getting wounded in combat.
Trump has never served in the military. The New York Times reported that he received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, most of them so he could pursue his education.
Supporters at Trump’s rally on Tuesday in Ashburn, Virginia largely embraced his lack of political correctness.
“We haven’t pushed back at all in the last eight years. We’ve had people walk all over us,” Schimkus said. “He’s a leader who will stand up for us.”
Any candidate aiming to swiftly reverse eight years of policies set by President Barack Obama and Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly step on some toes, warned Nathan Coryell, who owns a Virginia real estate company.
“Our country is definitely going in the wrong direction, and if you’re driving 500 miles an hour in that wrong direction, you’re going to need strong brakes to stop,” said Coryell.
– No apologies –
As for Trump’s handling of the Khan controversy, “he could have framed that in a totally different light,” Coryell acknowledged, by suggesting that the policies of Clinton, who as a senator voted for the Iraq war, and previous president George W. Bush led US troops into the Middle East.
Schimkus said Trump “has to be careful what he says,” even if the Clinton camp “set him up” by having Khan address the Democratic convention and assail Trump.
But she insisted that “Trump is not going to go around apologizing.”
Lori Grimm, a small-business owner in Ashburn, said Trump ought to develop the self-control to halt the tit-for-tat attacks and move on to more important issues.
“I’m hoping today that he doesn’t keep going on it. He’s got to let it rest,” Grimm said.
But she also defended her candidate.
“They started it. They poked him by saying he’s never had to sacrifice anything,” she said.
Mike Groves, the football coach at Briar Woods High School where Trump spoke Tuesday, said he agreed with Trump’s initial assessment that Khan’s wife Ghazala, who stood silently beside her husband at the convention because she was too emotional thinking about her son, was not allowed to speak to the gathering.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch,” Groves said. “It’s obviously in their culture that men treat women sometimes not as equals.”
But Chip Galloway, a 32-year military veteran at age 63, insisted that Gold Star families who have lost a child in combat should be off-limits, even for Trump.
“I think he needs to apologize,” Galloway said. “His mistake was that he took on a family that lost a son while defending the country.”
But like the other Trump supporters in Ashburn, the missteps are not nearly enough to erode their confidence in the candidate, said Galloway, a former Marco Rubio supporter who is now on the Trump train.
“What politician hasn’t made a mistake?” he argued. “You find the perfect candidate, bring him to me and I’ll vote for him.”