Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s spat with a gold star family is putting Florida’s top elected officials in an awkward position.
At the Democratic National Convention Khizr Khan questioned Donald Trump’s fitness to be president.
“Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending [the] United States of America,” Khan said. “You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.
“You have sacrificed nothing.”
Trump—as he has throughout the campaign—responded forcefully.
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Trump said on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs—tens of thousands of jobs.”
In the same interview he suggested Khan’s wife Ghazala was kept from speaking.
“If you look at his wife she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me, but plenty of people have written that.”
The problem, as most know by now, is the Khan family lost their son Captain Humayun Khan in the Iraq war, and Trump’s comments have put Florida’s Republican leaders between a rock and a hard place.
“Look I’ve been clear—I’m never going to agree with every candidate on everything they’re going to say.” Governor Rick Scott said after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
“I know who I am,” Scott went on, “I care about the military. I care about law enforcement. Look I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve in this country.”
Scott heads up Rebuilding America Now—a Super PAC dedicated to electing Donald Trump president. But while he distances himself from Trump’s comments, he’s sticking with candidate.
“Now I have a choice, alright?” he said. “I have Donald trump over here, a business person, that knows how to create jobs. Over here, I have Hillary Clinton a career politician that has never created a job in her life. So to me it’s an easy choice. I’m going to back the business person that has actually signed the front of a paycheck and knows how to build a company.”
It’s a similar story for Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“He saved hundreds of lives,” she said of Capt. Khan after the Cabinet meeting. “He is an American patriot, an American hero—end of story. Would I have ever said anything about his mother standing up there silent, not saying anything? Absolutely not. That’s my position.”
But for some veterans that’s simply not good enough. Former Marine Colonel Jim Seaton says Trump’s comments display a lack of empathy.
“The president sets the tone. The president represents the United States of America worldwide and if he is lacking in empathy, it will be noted globally,” Seaton says. “And it will set a tone that is an unhealthy tone within our own country.”
He acknowledges Scott and Bondi are in a difficult position.
“But I think that our politicians have to—I mean you have to stand up and be heard,” Seaton says. “It doesn’t mean that you’re disloyal to the candidate you’re supporting, it just means that you’re more loyal to what’s right than what’s convenient.”
Former Navy Captain Anne Rawley tends to vote for liberal candidates, but says she’s open to nominees across the political spectrum.
“They’ve always been people that I thought even though I might not agree with their views on things or their ideas, but they were well thought out,” Rawley says.
She doesn’t feel the same about Trump.
And it appears many in the country are leaning the same way. According to the Real Clear politics poll average Trump has gone from a slight edge to a six point deficit against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton since Khan’s speech.