What to make of the furor touched off by the speech at the Democratic National Convention of Khizr Khan? Khan spoke about his son, an American war hero, Army Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim, who gave his life 12 years ago in Iraq to save his soldiers from a suicide bomber.
But Khan, the grieving father, did not stop there. In a windup to endorsing Hillary Clinton as "the healer," waving a copy of the American Constitution, Khan attacked Donald Trump, asking if he has even read the U.S. Constitution, and saying "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
Trump then attacked Khan, implying that his wife, Ghazala Khan, had remained mute onstage because she was a Muslim woman. Ghazala Khan has now written an op-ed in the Washington Post, grieving for her son and attacking Trump: "Ghazala Khan: Trump criticized my silence. He knows nothing about true sacrifice." Khizr Khan has just appeared on NBC TV's "Meet the Press" to denounce Trump as "a candidate without a moral compass."
By all means, let's debate these matters. But in an election contest with plenty to deplore on both sides, what's sauce for the gander should also be sauce for the goose. If we are going to talk about candidates without a moral compass, what about Hillary Clinton?
In finding a way through this minefield — in honoring war heroes and respecting their families, while navigating the sinkholes of this presidential race — I'd say Seth Lipsky's New York Sun gets it exactly right, in an editorial headlined "Gold Star Hypocrisy."
The Sun begins, quite rightly:
It was a magnificent thing for Secretary Clinton and the Democratic Party to honor the heroism of, in Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American who gave his life for his comrades and country. It was a reminder at a time when America is under attack by an enemy who claims to be acting in the name of Islam that there are millions of loyal Americans who adhere to the Muslim faith. Captain Khan’s heroism is impossible to alloy.
The Sun goes on to express shock that Khizr Khan "used his son's sacrifice on the field of battle for political purposes," but underscores that we must respect Khan and his wife: "his and his wife's grief is unimaginable. They are Gold Star parents, and all Americans will rise in their presence."
Then the Sun asks, and answers, an important question:
Where was Hillary Clinton at the hour Captain Khan stepped forward in the face of our common foe? She, after all, had cast one of the votes that sent him to war (a majority of Democratic senators did so). Yet as it became clear that the fight would be tougher than she had imagined, Mrs. Clinton had begun to retreat. Though she claimed to Larry King of CNN that she didn’t regret her vote to give the president war authority, she started to cavil.
The Sun further notes that Clinton began waffling on the war — for which she voted — shortly before "Captain Khan stepped forward in the face of the enemy." And when President Bush stepped forward, ordering the surge to secure victory, "Mrs. Clinton opposed him tooth and nail." The Sun further reminds us that during the surge, Clinton "mocked General David Petraeus, to whom she said, in a public hearing viewable by his own troops, that his war reports required a 'willing suspension of disbelief.' ”
The Sun concludes that the biggest problem Clinton has in this race "is that everything about her is political":
Her support for the war was political. Her opposition to the war was political. Her use of Captain Khan’s example was political, as was her use of Captain Khan’s father. The only things real in this drama turn out to be the intrepidity of Captain Khan himself, the grief of his family, and the fidelity of the president who sent him to war.
To this I'd add that while it is fair game to ask Trump what sacrifices he has made, we might ask the same of Clinton. (No, I would not count her tale of arriving in 1996 "under sniper fire" in Bosnia).
On the same evening that Khizr Khan addressed the Democratic National Convention, Chelsea Clinton introduced Hillary as the devoted mother, who was "always there for me," and who is now the doting grandmother who will "drop everything for a few minutes of blowing kisses and reading Chugga -Chugga Choo-Choo with her granddaughter." Perhaps so. But when Islamist terrorists murdered four Americans on Sept. 11-12, 2012, in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not there for them, their families, or for the American public. Her prime efforts were devoted not to saving these men during the attacks, or to telling the public the truth afterward, but to the Obama administration's campaign season "messaging," and the farce of the "video."
To quote Hillary, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
Just this: It's a dangerous world right now, far more so than when President Obama took office. The next American president will likely have far less latitutude for "messaging," because the realities now rolling toward us like a tsunami will impose their own constraints. Not only have we seen the proliferation of Islamist terrorism, including the rise of ISIS, with its atrocities and turf in the Middle East and its spawn of terrorist attacks from San Bernardino to Brussels, Orlando, Nice and Rouen. In a world where freedom has been on the decline for a solid decade, America faces the rise of such militarizing and increasingly aggressive powers as Russia and China, the expanding reach of terrorist-sponsoring Iran (now benefiting from a nuclear deal that will not stop Tehran getting the bomb), and a totalitarian North Korea now prepping for its fifth nuclear test.
Personally, I'd like to bring Ronald Reagan back from the grave. But given that we must choose from what we've now got, let's be clear-eyed about the realities — on both sides of the aisle.