It was a horrible week for Donald Trump. He invited Russia to hack into the U.S. State Department, he disparaged a decorated 4-Star General, he was woefully unprepared to discuss Crimea and Ukraine, he lied about the NFL and the debate process, his wife Melania apparently lied about her college education, new nude photos of her surfaced, and he did the unthinkable: he attacked and has re-attacked the grieving parents of an American Muslim soldier killed in action.
By now you'd have to be living under a rock not to know Khizr Khan, father of Humayun Khan, a U.S. army captain who received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. Khan's emotional, impassioned speech at the Democratic Convention last week ignited a firestorm of harsh criticism of Trump after he disparaged Khan's wife, Ghazala, who stood silently by her husband's side as he issued a stern rebuke of the Republican candidate's comments and positions involving Muslims.
"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," Trump said in an interview with ABC's "This Week." (not for nothing, but how many speeches has Trump himself given where Melania stands beside him without speaking?)
Since the convention, Trump has double, triple and quadrupled-down on his attacks on the Khans as his loyal legion of surrogates have embarrassingly attempted to spin his comments into something less than despicable and un-American. Through it all, Trump's been Tweeting up a storm, ranting like the super-thin-skinned petulant narcissist he is:
"Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same - Nice!"
And ever since the convention, Khan has quite effectively used the media to wage a moral war with Trump, issuing scathing criticisms shrouded in a heartfelt call for decency, dignity and empathy. He's been citing the U.S. Constitution (also a crowning moment of his convention speech, where he pulled out his personal copy and offered it to Trump, suggesting he read it) and the principles for which it stands.
To be sure, Trump has met his match. Khizr Khan is an accomplished, worldly, intelligent, articulate, dignified man who exudes grace, compassion and a strong moral compass. In what is a sea of campaign madness he has become an unassailable voice of reason. He has absolute honor, integrity and righteousness on his side. And Ghazala has become a quiet symbol of purity and virtue, earning not just our compassion and respect, but our tears as a Gold Star mother. They are both a shining example of America's greatness.
The Khan controversy may just be the tipping point that decent people on both sides of the political spectrum have been waiting for. It's hard to imagine how Trump can spin his way out of this disaster. Rather, it appears this unfortunate episode will haunt him throughout the remainder of the campaign, even growing in significance because it's probable that when threatened, he'll continue to strike back even harder.
The conventional wisdom is that Trump's unconscionable attacks on the Khans, together with his disparaging remarks towards Gen. John Allen, Sen. John McCain and the military in general (a "disaster") will hurt him with military families. Let's remember that it's families like those of Trump's blue-collar white base that generously serve up their sons and daughters to protect America. It's their children, not those of the rich and privileged (like Trump, who received four deferments and an exemption, or his two sons, neither of whom have served their country) who comprise the military's ranks. I'm sure almost every one of them has a loved one currently serving, or have perhaps experienced the ultimate sacrifice of losing them to war.
The Khans, who have generously allowed their hero son's tragic death to be a vessel for American exceptionalism, may just be this campaign's true change-agents.