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2016 Republicans tee off on Trump — with one exception

Trump vs. McCain continues … Is this a tipping point? Or is it simply the beginning? … The governing wing of the GOP (McCain) vs. its aggrieved/bombastic side (Trump) … The 2016 Republicans tee off on Trump — with one exception … Why Fox and GOP can’t dump Trump from that first debate … Four additional questions we have on Trump vs. McCain … Jeb Bush takes on Washington in speech from FL … Cuba opens its embassy in DC … And the RNC hits Hillary on Nigeria.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Morning Joe, 7/20/15, 7:31 AM ET

McCain: Trump doesn't owe me an apology

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joins Morning Joe to discuss recent comments made by Donald Trump about McCain’s service in Vietnam.
*** Trump vs. McCain continues: Two days after Donald Trump belittled John McCain’s war record and military service, the feud spilled over to Monday morning. “I’m not a fan of John McCain,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today,” adding, “He has done a terrible job for the vets … Illegal immigrants get treated better than many of our vets, and John McCain hasn’t done anything about it. Trump stressed to NBC’s Matt Lauer that he referred to McCain as a war hero four times in his remarks in Iowa on Saturday. But here was the offending comment: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” About 30 minutes later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” McCain took the high road, saying that Trump doesn’t owe him an apology — but instead to the families “to those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.” He continued, “To denigrate their service is an offense to our veterans.” McCain didn’t apologize for calling Trump’s supporters in Arizona “crazies,” which essentially started this feud. Noting the divisive politics in his home state, where he’s up for re-election next year, McCain said, “I thought it was a term of endearment.” And when asked if Trump should exit the GOP presidential contest, McCain said, “I think that’s a decision he has to make… What he should do is apologize to the families.”

*** Is this a tipping point? Or simply the beginning? In a normal world of politics and for a normal political candidate, this would be a tipping point: As the party abandons Trump, so would GOP primary voters. But this isn’t a normal time in American politics, and Donald Trump isn’t your normal political candidate. He’s unpredictable, and that’s the issue. He doesn’t play by conventional rules, so conventional patterns might not apply. As our colleague Dante Chinni put it, Trump is a combination of Ross Perot and Howard Stern. And a Howard Stern doesn’t succumb to controversy; he thrives in it.

*** The governing wing of the GOP vs. its aggrieved/bombastic side: In a way, it’s fitting that that this fight features John McCain vs. Donald Trump. After all, McCain represents the governing wing of the Republican Party in the Obama Era — highlighted by his work on the Gang of Eight immigration reform legislation. By contrast, Trump is the latest to represent the aggrieved and bombastic wing of the GOP — see his “birther” crusade against Obama in 2011, the comments on Mexicans last month, and his feud now with McCain. But do remember: McCain himself sometimes carried the aggrieved/bombastic flag during Obama’s first term in office. And he helped birth the previous iteration of Donald Trump: Sarah Palin.

*** The 2016 Republicans tee off on Trump — with one exception: As it relates to the 2016 contest, Trump’s comments on McCain finally created the opening for Trump’s GOP rivals to tee off on real-estate mogul — more than we saw after Trump’s remarks on Mexico. Here was Rick Perry on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday: “Until Mr. Trump apologizes directly to John McCain, and also to the veterans of this country, I don’t think he has the character or the temperament to hold the highest position in this country.” Here was Scott Walker to NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell: “At a minimum, he needs to apologize… “[W]hen it came to personal attack like this against the military, an American hero, I’m gonna call it like I see it.” The one Republican who didn’t truly condemn Trump’s remarks was Ted Cruz, who called McCain a war hero but added, “You know I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, and so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump, or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” he said. “I’m not going to do it.”

*** Why Fox and GOP can’t dump Trump from that first debate: Over the weekend, we heard lots of commentary that the Republican National Committee and/or Fox News should exclude Trump from that first GOP debate in August. But according to Federal Election Commission regulations, only a “bona fide staging organization” can host a debate – and in this case, it’s the media organization (Fox News). What’s more, if debate organizers tried to include/remove someone who didn’t meet stated criteria, the action would be considered an illegal political contribution.

*** Four additional questions we have: Regarding Trump’s comments and their impact on the 2016 race, well, we never believed Trump was going to win – he was always doomed to crash and burn. (If it wasn’t going to be controversial comments, it was going to be his “pro-choice,” pro-universal health care positions that did him in.) But we do have three questions that the Trump-vs.-McCain feud has created:

  1. Why did the party and the 2016 rivals draw the line on the McCain comments, but not the comments on Mexicans (last month) or Obama (in 2011 to now)?
  2. If dumping on war heroes is unacceptable, should we revisit what happened to John Kerry in 2004? (On “Morning Joe,” McCain said that he criticized the “Swiftboat” attacks on Kerry in that presidential election.)
  3. If the GOP pushes back too hard, does it risk forcing Trump to make an independent bid for president?
  4. Last week, we saw Donald Trump overshadow Scott Walker’s presidential announcement week. Do we see the same thing happen to John Kasich, who officially announces his presidential bid on Tuesday?

*** Jeb Bush takes on Washington: In non-Trump 2016 news, Jeb Bush delivers a speech in Tallahassee, FL, where he’ll criticize the political culture in Washington, DC.  “The overspending, the overreaching, the arrogance, and the sheer incompetence in that city — these problems have been with us so long that they are sometimes accepted as facts of life.  But a president should never accept them, and I will not.  We need a president willing to challenge the whole culture in our nation’s capital –and I mean to do it!” The challenge for Bush: Can the son and brother of former U.S. presidents really be viewed as a Washington outsider?

*** Cuba opens its embassy in DC: The other big political story today: “Later this morning, the Cuban flag will be raised and Cuba will open an embassy here in Washington as the United States and Cuba formally re-establish diplomatic relations after more than a half century,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported on “Today.”

*** RNC hits Hillary on Nigeria: Finally today, the Republican National Committee is out with this hit on Hillary Clinton: “Clinton’s Legacy In Nigeria: As Nigeria’s President Comes To Washington To Discuss The Brutal Fight Against Boko Haram, A Quick Reminder Of Clinton’s Failure To Act Against The Militants Ravaging The Region.”

OBAMA AGENDA: Kerry: If Congress sinks the Iran nuke deal, U.S. will get the blame

John Kerry is warning Congress not to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, saying that if lawmakers scuttle the agreement, “We will be viewed as having killed the opportunity to stop them from having weapons. [Iran] will begin to enrich again, and the greater likelihood is what the president said the other day — you will have a war.”

Via USA Today: ”The FBI is examining Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez’s cellphone and computer to determine whether the 24-year-old who killed four Marines and a Navy petty officer in Tennessee on Thursday was involved with the Islamic State terrorist group, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Sunday.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Hillary to push for overhaul of capital-gains taxes

CLINTON: She’ll push an overhaul of capital-gains tax rates, the Wall Street Journal writes. MORE: “Hillary Clinton will propose a revamp of capital-gains taxes that would hit some short-term investors with higher rates, part of a package of measures designed to prod companies to put more emphasis on long-term growth, a campaign official said.”

KASICHPOLITICO writes about how he’s trying to deal with his reputation for a hair-trigger temper.

O’MALLEY: He apologized for saying ”all lives matter” at the liberal Netroots Nation conference after being shouted down by protesters.

PERRY: He spoke out against Donald Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying that he lacks the “character or temperament” to be president.

And he continued to say he opposes allowing gay Boy Scout leaders.

SANDERS: He drew his largest crowd yet in Phoenix, with more than 11,000 people cheering his message at a rally, writes the Arizona Republic.

TRUMP: Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe“ if Trump owes him an apology, John McCain responded: “No, I don’t think so. But I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.”

In a USA Today op-ed, Trump said: “A number of my competitors for the Republican nomination have no business running for president. I do not need to be lectured by any of them. Many are failed politicians or people who would be unable to succeed in the private sector. Some, however, I have great respect for.”

Via The New York Times: People close to Donald Trump say that “apologizing was not an option that was discussed.”

The Washington Post looks back at what Donald Trump was doing when McCain was a prisoner of war.

WALKER: He told NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell in an exclusive interview that Donald Trump should apologize to John McCain.

Also in the wide-ranging interview, Walker discussed the fact that he does not have a college degree. “To me, it would have been a lot easier, but I’m not unlike about 2/3 of America who are in a very similar circumstance and to me, I think college is great. For my sons, it’s right for the careers they want to pursue. I also think I can be a good advocate for those who choose to go on to a two year associate degree, or maybe an apprenticeship, to remind people that there’s a place for everyone and that all these different careers are valuable in today’s economy.”

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann continued to this article.

Debates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

2016 Republicans tee off on Trump — with one exception