The decision to have Khizr Khan address the Democrat’s national convention at the coronation of Hillary Clinton was a stroke of genius. Who better to take aim at Donald Trump on the topic of Muslim immigration?
Humayun Khan, Mr. Khan’s son, was a captain in the United States Army. He stepped in front of a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, sacrificing his own life to save the lives of those he commanded. For this he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star – high honors for bravery in the United States military.
The Khan family are also Muslim.
So Mr. Khan was contacted, vetted, and prepared to take the stage at the Democratic convention. His sole qualifying characteristics were his religion, the valor of his son, and his willingness to follow the recommendations of his handlers about how to address Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president.
Khan hit a homerun.
He denounced Trump, even removing from his jacket pocket a copy of the United States Constitution, struggling in an endearing sort of way to pronounce “United” without the addition of an extra syllable. Had Trump ever read the Constitution? Kahn – or the person who wrote his remarks – told the world he doubted Trump had.
Trump, Kahn told the world, sacrificed nothing. Mr. Khan and his wife, by contrast, lost a much-loved son.
It was perfect, absolutely perfect: A Muslim hero losing his life to a suicide bomber. The war on terror has nothing to do with Islam, Mr. Trump. See! My son’s blood is as red as yours.
Who would dare criticize Mr. Khan, draped, as he is, in the loss of his son?
Trump, of course.
First, the Republican took a swipe at the Khan couple. Mrs. Khan stood silently by, unable, or afraid, to speak – no doubt silenced by a religion that makes women into second-class citizens, Trump insinuated.
Outrageous, the critics contended. Mrs. Khan then explained, in a published op ed piece, she was afraid to speak – she could not speak – because speaking of her son moves her to tears. Another perfect moment for the Democrats.
In the days that followed, Mr. Khan became a folk hero, making the rounds of the national television shows. Visitors even flocked to Arlington National Cemetery to pay homage to Humayun.
Then came critics who contended that Trump had disrespected veterans. Families who lose a child on active duty are Gold Star parents. They get special recognition for their loss. They have made the “ultimate sacrifice” and are entitled to deference.
I agree. They are entitled to deference. Losing a child in active military duty is an unbearable loss.
But when a Gold Star family member accepts the invitation of a political party to take to the pulpit and take aim at the opposing party’s nominee for president, the family member sheds that deference. Mr. Khan is no victim, however insensitive, even stupid, some of Trump’s remarks in response may have been.
Mr. Khan let himself be used by the Democrats; if some Republicans now misuse him, he doesn’t get to crawl beneath a Gold Star shell and claim it’s all unfair.
Just why both parties thought the national debate about public policy was served by parading the parents of dead children across their respective stages is beyond me. It represents some deep, Oprah-like stain, the dumbing down of debate in the name of raw feeling.
The Republicans called to their convention the mothers of folks killed in the violence in Benghazi and by illegal immigrants. The Republicans countered by calling the mothers of black men killed by police and the Khans.
Shame on both parties.
Parents undone by grief aren’t public policy spokesmen. They are political pawns. Playing with this passionate fire is the same sort of mistake the courts make when they ask victims to comment on what justice requires in a criminal case.
“No one can be a judge in their own case,” an ancient legal maxim has it.
Amen. Asking those unstrung by grief to see clearly is asking too much.
I don’t know whether Khzir Khan himself has ever read the United States Constitution, although I suspect he’s read at least some portions of it. He is, after all, a graduate of the Harvard Law School. As a lawyer, he surely knows almost every clause of the document is contested terrain in the ideological warfare that moves the courts.
The Constitution is not scripture. It doesn’t define a creed that demands the same sort of allegiance folks give to their Bibles or Korans – it’s documents about means, not ends.
As near as I can tell, there are no reported cases of suicide bombers inspired by the due process clause. And I’ve missed the press accounts of Baptists shooting up nightclub or concert halls.
But I have not missed the press reports about the threat posed by radical Islam. I am wary of the Muslim world. So is Donald Trump. I like that about Trump.
Trump erred in going after Khans; he is seemingly incapable of walking away from a fight – any fight, no matter how low the stakes. The far better course would have been for Trump to respect the Kahns’ loss.
“Yes, they lost a son, a hero, who sacrificed his life to protect his men,” he should have said.
“He was protecting his men from a suicide bomber from a region in the world rife with violence. Let’s be careful about opening our borders to folks from that region. Radical Islam killed this young Muslim man. It has taken aim at us, too.”
There’s a good chance some of the last words Captain Khan heard before he died in Iraq were “Allahu Akbar” – the suicide bomber’s tribute to a savage vision of God. His father can tell us all day long that is a mere prayer. That’s the sort of willful blindness that gets folks killed.
Beatifying the parents of a dead soldier does nothing to combat radical Islam.
Khizr Khan’s energies would be better spent persuading his co-religionists that radical Islam is a worldwide cancer.
Move on Mr. Trump. Radical Islam remains a threat, no matter how maudlin the remarks of Mr. Khan. The Khans made themselves into a regrettable sideshow.