February 12, 2019

Ilhan Omar's Tweets

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!

“Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar ‘unequivocally’ apologized Monday for tweets [from the night before] suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so.” In her apology, she critiqued “the problematic role of lobbyists… whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry.” AP News, Twitter



Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress condemned her tweets from Sunday night:

House Democratic Leadership stated, “Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive.  We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.” House.gov

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy stated, “Members of the Democrat caucus have increasingly and alarmingly used anti-Semitic language which has no place in the halls of this Congress.” House.gov



Both sides also argued that her comments about AIPAC and its influence are inaccurate:

AIPAC does not in fact spend very much money on politics: It is not among the 100 biggest spenders on lobbying or even among the 5,000 biggest donors to political campaigns. Neither does the NRA, which was No. 4,161 among political donors in 2018 and No. 83 among lobbyists. For comparison, the NRA’s political contributions amount to a little less than 3 percent of those from the teachers’ unions. The power of these organizations does not come from bribery — it comes from belief.” National Review

There are much greater and simpler explanations for general and very specific pro-Israel attitudes in this country that bely the claim that it’s ‘all about the Benjamins’... Generally speaking, Americans tend to be pro-Israel thanks to acute and widespread awareness of the Holocaust and of Jewish statelessness as one of the principal reasons the Holocaust occurred… A particularly large and politically active group of conservative American Evangelical Christians, moreover, not only identify themselves with Jews thanks to a common scriptural legacy, but also place the State of Israel at the very center of their vision of global salvation.” New York Magazine

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

“At a moment when activists have finally pried open space in American politics to question our relationship with Israel, it’s particularly incumbent on Israel’s legitimate critics to avoid anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. And the idea of Jews as global puppet masters, using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding, clearly does.”
New York Times

“There’s only so many times Omar can claim ignorance of anti-Semitic tropes. However, it’s undoubtedly true that AIPAC and other groups spend quite a bit of money to influence U.S. policy toward Israel… It’s not controversial to talk about that kind of influence when the group in question is the National Rifle Association or the fossil fuel industry, to use two examples Omar cited in her apology. To use another example, raising questions about Saudi influence in Washington does not make one Islamophobic.”
Slate

“This is an inherently difficult topic for Democrats. A large majority of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israeli side than the Palestinian side in the conflict, but rank-and-file Democrats are split roughly 50-50. That means that in order to be effective, people who want to challenge the pro-Israel consensus in politics need to be careful and strategic with their interventions — the opposite of tossing off inflammatory tweets on a Sunday evening with no strategy lined up.”
Vox

At the same time, the president of J street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group, notes that, “the consensus position in the Democratic Party… is [both] supportive of Israel and supportive of the cause of Palestinian self-determination… There are a couple of people in the caucus who have come out in favor of [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement], but there’s 230 members who have not… What I see is Republicans who, for partisan purposes, are trying to drive a wedge in the Democratic Party.”
Slate

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

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 sees Buttigieg and Biden as the winners of the debate, and criticizes the answers on housing and foreign policy.

From the Right

“Omar’s comments on Sunday were neither a surprise nor an unexpected gaffe by the Minnesota congresswoman, but part of Omar’s long and calculated opposition to Israel and Jewish people worldwide. In 2012, Omar posted on Twitter that ‘Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.’”
Fox News

Anti-Semitism now thrives inside the Democratic Party. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) wrote a piece for Louis Farrakhan in 2006… Linda Sarsour continues to be an ally to [several freshman Democrats]... Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) holds conference calls with vicious British anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn… Keith Ellison, now attorney general of Minnesota, was nearly made the head of the Democratic National Committee after engaging in blatant anti-Semitism for years.”
Daily Wire

Many point out that “Republicans don't need AIPAC to convince them to be pro-Israel. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I've had plenty of Republican lawmakers and staffers confide in me over the years that they're increasingly frustrated with AIPAC for working to water-down various letters in support of Israel to get Democrats on board… The truth is that Republicans are pro-Israel because their voters overwhelmingly are.”
Washington Examiner

“Israel’s detractors cannot imagine that Congress — or Americans generally — could support Israel in good faith. It must be because of the evil string-pulling jooz spreading around their filthy Benjamins that we haven’t thrown her under the bus…

“Israel is popular with a number of important constituencies including many Jews (imagine that). But its real popularity resides among evangelical Christians and voters generally. And, despite its perfectly debatable flaws, real and alleged, it should be popular. It’s an ally. It’s democratic. It’s Western. And its enemies are largely our enemies.”
National Review

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

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Expect Stiff Competition at This Year’s International Hair Freezing Contest.
Smithsonian

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