February 12, 2019

Ilhan Omar's Tweets

“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 is disappointed that Mueller did not bolster the case for impeachment and criticizes Republicans for downplaying the threat of election interference.

“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

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

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

Regarding the decision to label China a currency manipulator, “traders may fear the tiny devaluation signals trade conflict spreading to currency. [But] this is highly unlikely, because a steep devaluation would be destabilizing for China… If an extended depreciation is encouraged or permitted, RMB holders can only guess what level the government truly wants. Last time around — four years ago — they chose large-scale capital flight rather than trusting the People’s Bank. China’s economy is slower, older, and more indebted than back then. Most importantly, it no longer has the foreign exchange to afford a repeat of 2015–6. That’s why the People’s Bank is likely to continue to defend the RMB near 7 to the dollar.”
Derek M. Scissors, The National Interest

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

On the bright side...

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

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