With just 17 days left before Election Day, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has released a compelling ad featuring Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American war hero heavily criticized by Republican nominee Donald Trump earlier in the election season. In 60 seconds, with just one question, Khan delivers one of the most powerful arguments against a Trump presidency seen so far during this election.
In the campaign spot, Khan briefly describes how his son, an American service member, died protecting his unit from a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004 while watching footage of his funeral and reflecting on old pictures. "He was 27 years old and he was a Muslim American," a visibly emotional Khan says in the ad. "I want to ask Mr. Trump: would my son have a place in your America?"
It's a powerful question that gets to the heart of some of Trump's most criticized moments — his vilification of an entire religious group and his denigration of the sacrifices made by a Gold Star family. While many have found Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric hard to choke down, many conservative voters considered Trump's disparaging of a military family more of a red line than the lewd and predatory comments he was caught on tape making about women.
Throughout the general election, the Khan family had been one of the Clinton campaign's most compelling and effective arguments against Trump, causing more damage to Trump's presidential campaign than perhaps almost any other entity. Khan's speech at the Democratic National Convention in July became a defining moment of this year's election not so much for what Khan said — although his words were moving and powerful — but for how Trump reacted to them.
Trump wasted no time in lashing out at Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, following their appearance at the DNC, implying Ghazala had not been allowed to speak at the convention because of her faith. He was quickly criticized for showing a lack of respect and gratitude to an American military family by politicians from both sides of the aisle.
Born in Pakistan, Khan would more than likely be barred from entering the United States under a Trump administration. And his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who reportedly emigrated to the United States at the age of 2 with his parents? He was born in the United Arab Emirates, a majority Muslim nation that lies within a region that has seen its fair share of terrorism and extremism.
Trump first called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" in December of 2015. However, after coming under heavy criticism that proposal has since evolved (more than once) to include halting "immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism" to temporarily suspending immigration from "regions linked with terrorism" to banning immigrants "from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism."
For many, the Khans represent one of America's founding principles — the idea that anyone can come here and with a little hard work build themselves a better life no matter where they arrived from or what they had when they got here. The Khans' story is one of patriotism and sacrifice. While Khan directs a very specific question at Trump in Clinton's new ad spot, the 60-second campaign forces voters to tackle another question: What kind of place do we want America to be?