Trump the Degenerate Gambler

With ever-larger wagers, GOP nominee bets with party's money — and soul

Khizr Khan, father of slain U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, holds up a copy of the Constitution as he delivers remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with his wife Ghazala Khan at his side. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Khizr Khan, father of slain U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, holds up a copy of the Constitution as he delivers remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with his wife Ghazala Khan at his side. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:00am

Donald Trump’s attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan , the Gold Star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who died in defense of his unit, were vile and beneath the office which he seeks.  

They were politically ill-advised, pitting the candidate against grieving parents and every immigrant community that has contributed to the growth and defense of the United States.  

And they even revealed that he wasn’t paying attention when Hillary Clinton warned him, from the podium at the Democratic convention, that she would make an issue of how easy it is to bait him into a temper tantrum.  

But as troubling as those aspects of Trump’s behavior are, they aren’t the most important for assessing how the billionaire would handle the presidency. The real problem with the Donald, identified by a friend of mine, is that he’s a degenerate gambler.  

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Hillary’s Honesty and Trump’s Temperament

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Not his money

Right now, he’s betting with the Republican Party’s money — and its soul — bringing down those around him as he desperately tries to recoup lost chips by throwing even larger wagers on the table.  

It would have been advisable, not to mention decent, to just turn the other cheek when Khizr Khan lectured him on national television . Trump could have let the loss go and moved on to the next hand.  

Instead, Trump opined that Ghazala Khan didn’t speak because her faith would not allow it. He forced his vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, to put out a statement praising the deceased soldier, Humayun Khan, as a hero and accusing President Obama of being responsible for Khan’s death — even though he was killed in action long before Obama was elected president.  

His allies tried to make the Khans into terrorists, even though their son gave his life to protect the draft-deferring Trump and his literally inestimable fortune.  

Surely, no political professional told Trump this was the right course of action. Prominent Republicans pleaded with him publicly to back off and show some human decency. But Trump hadn’t turned the loss into a win yet. So, he kept throwing good money after bad, borrowing against the Republican brand.  

It’s as if he believes a magic political bankruptcy court will protect him from the creditors who lent him their political capital. Those lenders are fleeing Trump — and in some cases, the party.  

Jeb Bush’s top aide bolted from the GOP on Monday. A retiring New York congressman, Richard Hanna, said Tuesday that he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton . They no longer feel like they can enable Trump’s addiction in good conscience.  

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Disappear, Donald

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Potential presidency

What Trump’s behavior tells us about his potential presidency is this: We’re looking at a petty little man who would lock himself in the Oval Office, consult a handful of sycophants and discard any advice that didn’t comport with his need to win every hand instead of leaving the table with the most money at the end of the night.  

He’d abuse the power of the office to persecute ethnic and religious minorities, probably journalists and pretty much any citizen who raised his voice in defiance.  

Most important, he’d take absurd risks with the lives and fortunes of his fellow Americans to preserve his personal brand and standing. “All in” isn’t a bad slogan. It’s a terrible way to preserve the republic. A president is supposed to minimize risk to the nation, not maximize it.  

Donald Trump’s very nature is catastrophically ill-suited to the office he seeks. We’ve survived all kinds of egotists and scoundrels, but never a man who can’t see the nation’s interests as bigger than his own.  

Unless Trump undergoes a personality transformation between now and November, it’s hard to see how he could possibly handle the pressures of the presidency without putting America at systemic risk.  

On the biggest question facing voters — whether a presidential candidate can be trusted to keep his or her cool and guide the country through crisis — Trump is failing in terrifying fashion.  

Trump has time to demonstrate he has the temperament to be president, but don’t bet on it.  

Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen is co-author of the New York Times-bestselling Clinton biography “HRC” and has covered Congress, the White House and elections over the past 15 years.


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