Sen. John McCain’s denunciation of the verbal pugilism directed at the parents of a fallen Muslim U.S. soldier is an example that the Utah delegation would do well to emulate.
Capt. Humayun Khan is an American hero — a Muslim U.S. soldier killed while striving to save the lives of fellow soldiers from a car bombing in Iraq.
Last week at the Democratic National Convention, Khan’s parents took center stage in Philadelphia, issuing a full-throated censure of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and past proposal to ban Muslim immigration to America. Mr. Trump has since changed his plan, focusing instead on restricting immigration from countries “compromised by terrorism.”
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” said Khizr Khan, referring to his deceased son, at the DNC. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims.”
During, at times, hyperbolic remarks, Khan’s father urged Mr. Trump to read the Constitution, offering to lend the candidate his personal copy. "Look for the words 'liberty' and 'equal protection of law,'" Khan said, holding up a pocket-sized copy as his wife, Ghazala Khan, stood by his side.
In response to the Khans, Trump was initially taciturn, saying only, “I'd like to hear his wife say something." Trump later expounded on this thought in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. "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," he concluded. "You tell me."
Clearly Mr. Trump was not genuinely interested in hearing from Ghazala Khan. A charitable reading of Mr. Trump’s retort is that it was an ad hominen attack on these parents of a fallen American soldier who publicly criticized him; a less charitable reading is that Trump was characterizing women in Muslim culture.
Whichever reading one subscribes to, neither is what most voters want to see from someone who aspires to be the president for all citizens.
With that said, this family did put themselves in the public arena and chose to sharply criticize the presidential nominee on a political stage. Mr. Trump, therefore, has every right to vigorously respond. However, his use of an ad hominem attack, or a criticism of this family’s faith or culture, or perhaps both, instead of addressing the substance of their remarks should give even Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters pause.
Former Republican presidential nominee McCain made it abundantly clear that he “deeply” disagrees with Mr. Trump's statements. “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
McCain claimed “no moral superiority over Donald Trump” but, as a former soldier and prisoner of war, felt compelled to condemn any rhetoric that could be interpreted as diminishing the ultimate sacrifice of Capt. Humayun Khan.
“I'd like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We're a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten."
Sen. McCain has set an example, showing Republicans how to support his party’s nominee while calling out actions and words that he believes do not fit his party’s values. We hope the Utah delegation is taking note.