- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2018

For many political neophytes, a major speaking role at a presidential nominating convention might have been the pinnacle. For Khizr Khan, the Muslim father of a U.S. Army captain who died serving in Iraq, his speech denouncing candidate Donald Trump was the beginning.

In the nearly two years since, he has become a mainstay of Democratic campaign politics, has been a star attraction at civil liberties groups’ banquets and has published two books.

And he was at the Supreme Court last month when the justices heard oral arguments over President Trump’s travel ban, which critics have derided as a Muslim ban.

Mr. Khan had filed a brief in the case with a stark personal appeal to the court, saying Mr. Trump’s policy desecrates the memory of his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004.

Emerging from the courtroom after the justices’ hearing, Mr. Khan said he was struck by the way the government’s attorney shied away from accusations that the policy was anti-Muslim and instead focused on the limits of executive power.

Mr. Khan seemed to consider that at least a small victory.

“The rest is in the hands of the justices,” he told The Washington Times in an interview days later. “Hopefully, we hope that we will have a favorable decision, but it has reaffirmed, this process has reaffirmed our faith and our belief in our rule of law in America’s judicial system.”

While he is leaving the legal battle to the judges, Mr. Khan has become more active in politics.

He has been invited to speak to the likes of the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League, has been invited to join the board of directors at People for the American Way, and has weighed in on congressional and governor’s races spanning the country.

Even as he accommodates those requests, Mr. Khan is keeping his eye fixed firmly on Mr. Trump. He said the scenario has turned out even worse than he imagined when he waved his copy of the Constitution and warned the country in July 2016 not to trust the machinery of government to a novice statesman in Mr. Trump.

“First it was the attacks on vulnerable communities, and sowing division based on race and ethnicity and religion. Initially, I had thought that this is just political rhetoric and it will go away, and the burden of office will improve the person — and will put some reality in his thinking and all that — but it has gotten worse,” Mr. Kahn told The Washington Times in a recent telephone interview.

Mr. Khan became a weapon in the hands of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who used the story of his son in her 2015 response to Mr. Trump’s original campaign promise of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Seven months later, the Clinton campaign put Mr. Khan on the stage at the Democratic National Convention, where he waved his pocket copy of the Constitution and demanded that Mr. Trump appreciate the sacrifices of those who died defending it.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing — and no one,” Mr. Khan said in remarks that quickly went viral.

Mr. Trump fired back by tweeting that Mr. Khan “viciously attacked me.” The president also questioned why Ghazala Khan, Mr. Khan’s wife, stood with him but didn’t speak at the convention.

Some pundits at the time said Mr. Trump’s response could cost him the election by chasing away wavering Republicans.

Mr. Trump won anyway, cementing Mr. Khan as a major voice of opposition.

He endorsed candidates in congressional races in Texas and Colorado, and governor’s races in New Jersey, Virginia and Idaho, where he is backing Paulette Jordan, a Democrat seeking her party’s nomination.

“The importance of her candidacy extends beyond her platform. Paulette would become the first Native American governor in the country and the first woman governor of Idaho,” Mr. Khan said in an endorsement video released by People for the American Way.

Mr. Khan is now working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as a surrogate and has said he will wait until after the primaries to back the party’s winners.

Mr. Khan said he takes the surrogate role seriously and has a hands-on role in DCCC messages and emails that use his name.

He said he looks for three major factors in candidates: local involvement, military service and fresh faces, particularly women.

Despite his close association with Democrats, he told The Times that he enthusiastically supports Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, whom he called “our son’s hero.”

“We still have the last book that I sent to Capt. Humayun Khan in Iraq to read was Sen. McCain’s book, ‘Why Courage Matters,’” Mr. Khan said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who served as Mrs. Clinton’s vice presidential nominee, said Mr. Khan’s story has touched many Americans.

“Hearing about the moving experience of Gold Star families like the Khans should deepen our own commitment to respecting and supporting those who have served in uniform and their families. I’m sure we have not heard the last from Khizr Khan,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Khan is a Pakistani immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1986. He said he lived under marshal law twice and that is why he is particularly dedicated to the Constitution’s First Amendment.

“My humble advice to all communities, including myself, is ‘Let’s remain vigilant,’” he said. “Let’s remain united in favor of our Constitution in favor of our rule of law, and let’s continue to participate in our elections, our process of election.”

That is also a reason he supports the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He said Russia found a “soft spot” in Mr. Trump, which he hopes the special counsel’s investigation will expose.

“We have not been so vigilant about our democracy, about our system of government, about whom we elect and how we elect. We have fallen victim to the propaganda of Soviets and of Russia,” he said.

He doesn’t have a favorite for president in 2020. He said his focus is still on the November midterm elections.

“I am positively optimistic that we will have a good and electable candidate in 2020, but 2020 is too far out,” he said. “I have promised myself I will take the longest nap I’m ever taking on the 7th of November of 2018.”


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