Pretty obviously, this is what Donald Trump should do about the Khans. He should send them a private note, roughly as follows:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Khan,
First, please accept my sincere apology for anything said by me or anyone in my campaign that was insulting or hurtful to you.
Second, please allow me to retract my ill-considered remarks about the sacrifices I have made in my life, especially if they came across as comparing any piddling sacrifice I might have made to what you have been through with the loss of your dear and heroic son. You and your family have made the ultimate sacrifice and suffered a loss so painful I can only try to imagine it and admit my good fortune that I have never had to experience it.
Lastly, given the remarks that you have made about me, I won’t trouble you with a request for your support in the coming election. I will ask that you please accept my condolences on your loss and try not to think too ill of me for my previous comments, which I deeply regret.
It’s so obvious that he should express such sentiments, not only out of common decency but to put the matter to rest.
I predict, with some confidence, that he will not do so. I’m not sure whether he has retracted or apologized for any of the offensive things he has said and done during his campaign. Notwithstanding his many great and stupendous qualities, humility and empathy do not seem to be among them.
He doesn’t seem capable of apologizing. I suppose it might even be politically risky for him to do the obvious right thing in this instance.
In ways that I still struggle to grasp, his political rise seems to owe much to the feeling of his supporters that the situation in the nation is so dire that it can be fixed only by an angry a—hole who puts the need for strength ahead of all other attributes — and here, by “strength,” I refer not to strength of character or leadership or wisdom but strength of anger, backed not much by real toughness (what has he ever done that required real toughness) but by more anger.
It seems I spend a little time each day trying to grasp how this combination of qualities has gotten him this close to the presidency, and I’ve made some progress, but I’m definitely not all the way there.
I’m a big fan of the corny old Frank Capra film classics, like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or “Meet John Doe.” A lot of them, including those two, were very political. The villain (played by Edward Arnold in both of those I just mentioned) uses money and mass propaganda power to subvert the workings of democracy on his own behalf, but just before the final disaster, the hero (Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith,” Gary Cooper in “John Doe”) breaks through at the last minute and connects with the basic common sense and decency of the average American. The endings were corny enough that they were called “Capra-corn.”
I keep waiting for the Capra moment in our current drama. Khizr and Ghazala Khan don’t look or sound much like Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur but I got a little bit of a Capra lump in my throat watching them Monday night on my beloved PBS “NewsHour” when Mr. Khan described why he was doing this and why he considers Trump unfit to lead this nation. If my shorthand is correct, he said:
“We are in the political process of the greatest democracy on the Planet Earth. He [Trump] is candidate for the highest office of this nation. He must have the patience and tolerance for criticism. Him and I, we have same equal rights. He thinks that he can criticize people but no one else can criticize him. That isn’t the value of this country.”