We simply must begin this edition by saluting Charlottesville’s latest (and most lovable) political luminaries: Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents whose son, Army Captain Humayun Khan (a UVA graduate), lost his life in Iraq after striding out to confront a suicide bomber in order to save his fellow soldiers.
Khizr’s speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention—in which he, with Ghazala by his side, paid tribute to his fallen son and excoriated Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for threatening to ban all Muslims from entering the United States—was an extraordinary emotional highlight of the event. Its import has only grown since, fueled by the outrageous attacks of Trump himself, who both implied that the speech was written by the Clinton campaign (it wasn’t) and that Ghazala’s onstage silence was mandated by her faith (it wasn’t). This latter claim was later demolished by Ghazala, who spoke forcefully during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, and also penned a Washington Post editorial declaring: “Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do. My son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died 12 years ago in Iraq. He loved America.”
The amazing thing is that the Khans’ affecting presentation was just one of 257 given during the DNC, which was so jam-packed with talent that Politico writer Dan Diamond made a running joke out of tweeting comparisons between the Democratic and Republican conventions. (Our favorite: “Right now at DNC: The 42nd president of the United States. This time last week: The general manager of Trump Winery.”)
But let us not forget the other big stories involving Virginians at the convention. The first, of course, was Senator Tim Kaine’s coming-out speech as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Now we may be biased, as we’ve always enjoyed Kaine’s goofy demeanor and plainspoken style, but we think he nailed it. His speech was lacerating without being mean, and was delivered in a tone so conversational and unaffected that even those who disagreed with the content couldn’t help but like the messenger. There’s a good reason that the most popular word used to describe Kaine during and after his speech was “dad”—and it’s also a solid indicator that Clinton’s vice presidential choice was the right one.
Finally, we can’t wrap up our convention coverage without acknowledging one of the event’s biggest gaffes: the suggestion by our own esteemed Governor Terry McAuliffe that, if elected, Clinton will once again support the (much-hated) Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (which she currently opposes). This admission, nonchalantly offered to a reporter from Politico following McAuliffe’s convention speech, was a political bombshell, foolishly reinforcing the caricature of Clinton as an unreliable opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected.
The Clinton campaign immediately came down on the Macker like a ton of bricks, with campaign chairman John Podesta quickly tweeting “Love Gov. McAuliffe, but he got this one flat wrong. Hillary opposes TPP BEFORE and AFTER the election. Period. Full stop.”
Still, even with a completely unforced error (and an ongoing series of disruptions by disaffected supporters of Bernie Sanders), this was a convention that masterfully showcased a powerful, optimistic and patriotic view of America—a view that was sorely missing at the Republican’s dour festival of fear a few weeks back.
And, while one well-produced show won’t suddenly return Clinton to the levels of popularity she enjoyed as secretary of state, it is yet another important step toward the Democrats’ ultimate (and absolutely vital) goal: to cast Donald Trump into the dustbin of history.
Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.