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.
We hung back from airing our own doubts about the remarks of Captain Khan’s father, Khizr Khan. We were as shocked as millions of Americans were by the partisan way in which, with his ad hominem attack on Donald Trump, Mr. Khan used his son’s sacrifice on the field of battle for political purposes. Yet his and his wife’s grief is unimaginable. They are Gold Star parents, and all Americans will rise in their presence.
Where, though, 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 consensus was the same, from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration,” she told King. “It was the same intelligence belief that our allies and friends around the world shared. But I think that in the case of the [Bush] administration, they really believed it. They really thought they were right.” Imagine that. In sending our GIs into combat, President George W. Bush really thought he was right. What did Mrs. Clinton think?
If Mrs. Clinton didn’t think she was right, why did she vote for the war in the first place? And if she thought she was right, why did she maneuver to retreat? The Larry King interview in which Mrs. Clinton started waffling was on April 20, 2004. On June 8 that year, Captain Khan stepped forward in the face of the enemy. President Bush would step forward, too, ordering a surge of American GIs to secure Iraq’s victory. Mrs. Clinton opposed him tooth and nail.
That was the period when she 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 surge was won, anyhow, and it worked, as Mrs. Clinton is quoted by President Obama’s defense secretary, Robt. Gates, as acknowledging. Mr. Gates reported, in his book “Duty,” that her opposition to the surge had been political, because of the Iowa primary.
The truth is that the biggest problem Mrs. Clinton has in this race — and we understand she might well win it — 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.