Monday, April 15, 2019


David Frum sees doom for the Democrats:
Many of President Donald Trump’s tweets backfire, but not his tweet attack on U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar. That one tweet succeeded to perfection. Trump wishes to make Omar the face of the Democratic Party heading into the 2020 elections—and now he has provoked Democrats to comply.
I have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez holding on Line 1 -- but go on.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have offered full-throated endorsements of Omar. “Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won’t back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end,” Sanders tweeted. Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg have expressed themselves more circumspectly, but have still aligned themselves with her in ways not easy to undo. “We are stronger than this president’s hatred and Islamophobia. Do not let him drive us apart or make us afraid,” O’Rourke tweeted. Of the 2020 hopefuls, only Amy Klobuchar added any caveat to her statement about Omar. (“You can disagree with her words—as I have done before—but this video is wrong.”) Joe Biden and Cory Booker have thus far refrained from comment.
Oh, so there's a range of responses. According to Frum, Omar is the face of the Democrats, but the Democrat leading in the race for president hasn't defended her. And while Klobuchar may be the only presidential candidate who has acknowledged disagreeing with Omar in the past, she's not the only prominent Democrat who has. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, strongly defended Omar and lashed out at Trump ("he has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all") but also said, "I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but... not with that one." And Nadler's was one of the strongest defenses of Omar by a Democrat. Nancy Pelosi's first statement was widely derided as weak.

More from Frum:
Having promised not to “let him drive us apart” from Omar, Democrats are now stuck with responsibility for the reckless things the representative from Minnesota says, not only about Jews, but about other issues, too....
How are they stuck? Democrats are defending her now even though her Democratric colleagues in the House have approved two resolutions denouncing anti-Semitism in response to previous remarks of hers. If anything, Democrats have made it clear that they'll throw her under the bus in a heartbeat if they feel sufficient pressure, or if they find her remarks genuinely offensive. They don't feel that way about this one.
Here’s the full sentence from which Trump took his sound bite: “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.”

CAIR was, in fact, founded seven years before 9/11. That error should matter to more than fact-checkers. It severs CAIR from its own history of radical advocacy and apologetics.
CAIR was founded in June 1994, when Omar was a 12-year-old refugee who'd spent about two years in America. I'm going to assume there was nothing sinister about the error.

And now we get the guilt by association:
Omar’s co-headliner at the California fundraising event was a lawyer named Hassan Shibly. Shibly is the lawyer for Hoda Muthana, a New Jersey–born woman who married an Islamic State fighter, proclaimed her adherence to ISIS in writing, and now seeks to return to the United States.
She wants to return knowing she'll be up on charges if she does. Frum doesn't acknowledge that she's willing to face U.S. justice.
Muthana’s case turns on technicalities of the citizenship laws, and she is entitled to legal representation.
How generous of Frum to acknowledge that an accused person in our system is entitled to a lawyer, and that we shouldn't cast aspersions on the lawyer even if the client is guilty (even though Frum does).
Shibly has stressed his own condemnation of ISIS and Muthana’s choice to join it. Yet Shibly has also spoken in extreme ways against Jews in Israel and the United States. He tweeted back in August 2014: “God as my wittiness, Israel & it’s supporters are enemies of God and humanity! How many more children must Israel kill 4 U 2 C?#Gaza.”
Why did Shibly tweet that on August 3, 2014? Here's why:
Aug. 3, 2014

JERUSALEM — ... an Israeli Air Force missile struck near the entrance of a United Nations school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah, killing 10 people and wounding 35 others and drawing a new round of international condemnation.

The growing civilian death toll has stirred outrage in Europe and large parts of the Arab world and, combined with Sunday’s strike near the Rafah school, prompted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations to call the attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and to demand that those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” be held accountable.

The State Department also condemned in harsh terms what it called “today’s disgraceful shelling” outside the school in Rafah. Witnesses near the school, where about 3,000 Palestinians had sought shelter, said that those killed or hurt were waiting in line for food supplies when a missile hit. A State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said that “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
Frum thinks Omar's phrase "some people did something" is insufficiently respectful of 9/11, but in the case of this massacre, Frum can't even acknowledge that anyone did anything. He writes as if Hassan Shibly is just randomly condemning Israel out of rabid Jew-hatred.

Frum continues:
Some have urged that Omar’s “some people did something” words about 9/11 be understood in context. Let’s try that. After the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, Trump tweeted: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” By using died rather than were murdered—and by describing the crime as “senseless”—Trump abstracted a politically motivated act from the politics that motivated it. The crime became a ghastly tragedy, requiring no words from him about the white-nationalist beliefs of the killer or the larger international movement that shared those beliefs.

“Some people did something” performed exactly the same exonerating service for Islamic extremism as Trump’s tweet about Christchurch did for white nationalism.
This is nonsense. There was some criticism of Trump's words after the Christchurch massacre, but Christchurch wasn't Charlottesville -- what Trump said never became a significant story. The attacks on Omar are now in their seventh day and they're a major focus of the right-wing attack machine. There were no banner headlines in response to what Trump said after Christchuch -- nothing like that New York Post front page about Omar.
It cannot be pleasant for Omar’s colleagues to have to wonder and worry what that next remark will be—knowing that Donald Trump and his Twitter feed will be waiting to blame all Democrats for the provocations of one. But by not putting themselves on record about Omar when they could, Democrats now find themselves bound to her for the duration. This problem will get worse, and its political consequences will become ever more costly for Democrats who want to win national elections and govern the country.
To repeat what I said earlier, Democrats won't feel "bound to" Omar "for the duration" -- they'll readily condemn her if she says something they regard as genuinely offensive, or even politically radioactive. In this case, however, they sincerely believe that she's done nothing of the sort, and that her attackers are acting in extremely bad faith (and they're correct).

Donald Trump has said far worse things than Ilhan Omar, and has spent more years saying them as a national political figure. David Frum has condemned those words, and condemned Republicans who are "bound to" Trump "for the duration." Yet somehow he believes Trump and his defenders have all the power now. Why isn't Trump's unambiguous hatemongering "costly" for Republicans "who want to win national elections and govern the country"?

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