Now that both major parties’ political conventions are finished, comedian John Oliver has had some time to reflect on what we can take away from the Republican National Convention and last week’s Democratic National Convention.
His analysis? “The DNC showed the Democrats to be a coalition of constantly squabbling, if fundamentally like-minded, Katy Perry fans,” said Oliver on Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. “And, as for the RNC, it showed that the Republican party doesn’t seem to currently exist….And, for the party of Reagan, the tone was unusually and relentlessly negative.”
Oliver added that the negative tone, seen especially in Trump’s doom-and-gloom style acceptance speech, allowed Democrats “to pick up the mantel of people who actually like living here.” Oliver noted the DNC grabbed the opportunity to lean on more blatant symbols of patriotism, such as flags being waved by attendees during speeches proclaiming America’s greatness and strength.
“The reason the Republican party essentially forgot to celebrate America this year might have been because they were too busy celebrating Donald Trump’s claims that he would fix whatever Donald Trump thinks is wrong with America,” Oliver said before launching into a takedown of the “countless awful things” Trump has said over the past year, stirring up any number of controversies throughout his campaign for the White House.
The late-night TV host, however, argued that Trump’s recent war of words with Khizr Khan stand out in particular.
Khan is the father of fallen Army captain Humayun Kahn, an American Muslim solider who died in Iraq in 2004. In a DNC speech that Oliver called “the emotional highlight of the convention,” Khan criticized Trump’s proposed plan to ban Muslim immigration to the U.S. while claiming that Trump “doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”
In a series of responses over the weekend, Trump alternately called Khan’s son a hero, while claiming that the argument was a matter of “radical Islamic terror” and also suggesting that Khan’s wife stood silent during his convention speech because their religion forbade her to do so. (Ghazala Khan responded in an op-ed to say that she did not speak at the DNC because she still becomes overwhelmed by grief when asked to revisit her son’s death.)
Trump’s recent comments have drawn a swift backlash from both sides of the aisle, with Democrats obviously expressing outrage on behalf of the Khan family while some prominent Republicans have also broken ranks to criticize the party’s presidential nominee. (Others, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have issued statements showing support for the Kahn family while reiterating their opposition to Trump’s proposed Muslim ban.)
Speaking on Sunday night about Trump’s war of words with the Muslim family of a fallen American soldier, Oliver seemed mystified and outraged that someone so close to the nation’s highest office could be seen as failing in that office’s duty of comforting grieving military families. Oliver said: “Honestly, the main takeaway from these two weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities.”