April 15, 2019

Ilhan Omar’s Comments

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Controversy erupted over the weekend about comments made by Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in March. Omar stated, “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” YouTube

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) tweeted, “First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as ‘some people who did something’. Unbelievable.” Twitter

President Donald Trump tweeted “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” along with a video of her comments interspersed with footage of the 9/11 attacks. Twitter

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Omar’s comments were taken out of context, and condemns the over-the-top rhetoric being used against her.

“Omar was not downplaying 9/11, she was simply pointing out the injustice of all 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide being blamed for a small number of people committing a horrible atrocity… The only thing you could quibble with is Omar saying that CAIR — a blandly inoffensive Muslim rights organization akin to the NAACP, which conservatives nevertheless constantly accuse of being affiliated with terrorism or itself terrorist — was founded after 9/11, when in fact it was founded in 1994. (Though it did dramatically step up its advocacy after 9/11, for obvious reasons.)”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

“I’m reminded of Cardinal Richelieu’s quote: ‘If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.’ Omar isn’t even being afforded six words… While some in the GOP are trying to use this moment to score cheap political points, Omar has been working hard to advance the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund… [But] the most frustrating thing about this latest spasm of conservative backlash is the way it obscures Omar’s actual point about civil rights.”
Qasim Rashid, NBC News

“Since 2001, Muslim Americans have increasingly dealt with Islamophobia and threats of violence against them. The two most recent FBI reports on hate crimes showed that anti-Muslim assaults are at record levels in the United States, hovering at three times higher than they did a decade ago. Just this week, an Ohio chapter of CAIR asked the FBI to investigate after it received a threatening letter praising the New Zealand attacks as something that brought ‘tremendous joy’ and calling for ‘Death to Islam everywhere.’… The fearmongering tweets Trump and others pushed out in the wake of Omar’s speech serve as yet more pieces of fuel for this fire.”
Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones

“GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel responded by calling Omar ‘anti-American.’ Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said that ‘you have to wonder if she is an American first.’... [Last month Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro argued] that Omar isn’t a true American because she wears a hijab. ‘Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Quran, 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t [be] molested,’ she said. ‘Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?’… It shouldn’t be hard to understand that pushing such a pointed message that people like Omar are at war with American values can lead to violence.”
Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone

“In February, authorities arrested the United States coast guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson, an alleged rightwing extremist who, reports say, had placed Omar (among others) on a hit list… And just last week, a man from western New York was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill the Minnesota congresswoman. In scoring their cheap political points, Fox News and the New York Post and the president of the United States himself are directly contributing to a perilous climate of vigilantism that threatens not only Omar but really every Muslim in America today.”
Moustafa Bayoumi, The Guardian

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right condemns Omar’s comments and criticizes accusations of incitement against her critics.

From the Right

The right condemns Omar’s comments and criticizes accusations of incitement against her critics.

“Is this the most important thing happening in the world? Not remotely. But it’s not asking too much from any elected representative to show that basic decency when they speak. Rep. Omar didn’t manage to do that. Maybe she misspoke. If so, it would be easy to say so, express a little respect for the dead and move on. But we’re not seeing that. Instead, Omar and her friends AOC and Rep. Tlaib and Vox and the Washington Post are claiming criticism of her language is an attempt to get her killed…

“Not one of the people on the left parroting this idea (that criticism incites violence) has shown any such concern about their own speech. When they spent the last 2 years claiming the president was a compromised Russian stooge, did you ever hear them hesitate on the grounds that someone might try to kill Trump? They did not. And neither should critics of Rep. Omar.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

“Last year, many in the liberal press applauded the public abuse of Trump officials in restaurants. This was the people having their voice! Even Democratic members of Congress urged this kind of direct action. Can they really claim that public confrontation with politicians is less likely to lead to violence than criticism of a Muslim politician’s speech? If telling people to get in GOP officials’ faces isn’t incitement to violence — and it isn’t — then how can criticism of a congresswoman euphemizing the attacks of 9/11 possibly be?…

“Omar has been the subject of death threats, including the arrest of one man. Perhaps Omar’s critics should take extra care in framing their attacks. But Omar is a public figure, a politician thrust into vast prominence and influence. She has to be fair game for direct criticism. And her identity cannot be allowed to transform a plain political attack into an incitement to violence.”
David Marcus, Federalist

Comparisons between Omar’s statements and those made by President Bush at Ground Zero imply “that President Bush said something comparable to her ‘some people did something’ riff, but the implied analogy is nonexistent. Bush vowed to destroy the terrorists who attacked the U.S. Omar suggested that the terrorist attacks were of little consequence except insofar as they prompted an alleged backlash against Muslims–by President Bush, presumably. The two statements could hardly be more different.”
John Hinderaker, Power Line Blog

Some, however, argue that “Omar's words were poorly chosen… But I suspect Omar's intent was not malicious or derisory. Rather, I believe Omar was attempting to draw divergence between her Islamic faith and the al Qaeda fanatics who carried out the 9/11 attacks. When she says that ‘some people’ did it, she meant ‘some people who are not us’ or ‘not like us,’ referring to herself and peaceful, mainstream adherents of Islam in the U.S… Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that was her key point: al Qaeda are not us, and their evil should not be used to collectively punish Muslims. You don't have to approve of CAIR or Omar to appreciate the legitimacy of this idea.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“When the ideological left engages in what is variously denigrated as ‘political correctness,’ virtue-signaling, performative wokeness, or ‘social-justice warrior’ cry-bullying, many on the right find it easy to spot the flaws in those modes of discourse. But that discernment vanishes when the populist right indulges in the same vices…

Civic conversation in America is dysfunctional in part because we have so many such outrage exhibitionists. These folks strip inartfully phrased remarks of context, ignoring the speaker’s intentions and imputing the least charitable possible meaning. This sets them up to display umbrage with the ostentation of a peacock… even if Omar’s words weren’t defensible, what kind of president uses the bully pulpit to push out video of a national trauma, forcing millions to relive its horrors, so that he can score cheap points against a member of Congress?”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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