Even in the most frustrating of stories, there are heroes. In the case of the watered-down piece of “anti-hate” dreck passed by the Congress Thursday, it is the 23 Republicans who refused to play the ridiculous game laid out before them.
What started as pressure to denounce the repeated anti-Semitic words of freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar was quickly broadened to protect her from the specific sting of rebuke. The idea arose of a broad pronouncement against anti-Semitism, a worthy idea since it does seem to be on the rise in general. But that wasn’t the point.
The point was that we have a member of Congress who strung together completely intentional pronouncements borrowing from the longtime index cards of Jew-hatred: Jews as money-hungry, Jews as sinister hypnotists, support for Israel as “allegiance to a foreign country.”
As Democrats scrambled for cover, her backers reminded us that she had issued some apologies (the sincerity of which should soon be made clear), and- my favorite—“she is learning.”
The woman is 37 years old. She occupies a seat in Congress. She did not just land from space. She knew exactly what she was saying, and meant every word. As such, a resolution against those specific offenses was wholly appropriate. That said, if a proper resolution had passed, I would have supported allowing her to keep her seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. A proper consequence could have been a reset button, an opportunity to see if a lesson was learned.
As it is, she’s learned a lesson all right. She has learned that today’s Democratic party will willfully blind itself to her prejudices to avoid provoking the brash, young congressional generation of which she is a part.
Realizing that even a broad resolution against anti-Semitism would have had her name all over it symbolically, the whole vote was pounded into mush: an expression of opposition to “hate,” allowing everyone to supply a favored definition.
For some, maybe it was Omar’s derision of Jews. For others, it was an opportunity to weaponize their favorite myth of equivalency—the assertion that President Trump is somehow equally guilty because of extreme vetting, comments about illegal immigrants or some other characteristic they wish to stigmatize.
If Rep. Steve King can be drawn and quartered for comments taken out of context, it would seem a Democrat displaying confirmable bigotry might be a worthy recipient of disapproval from colleagues. But not in 2019, and not in a House under Democrat control.
That very control is the subject of some curiosity. This whole drama was a nightmare for Nancy Pelosi, who might ultimately have asked Omar to lean into the strike zone and take one for the team for the greater good. This entire story could have been on its way to forgotten within days, presuming no recurrences.
As it is, Omar is unchastened, a valuable message is undelivered, and a learning opportunity is lost. But every day brings the possibility of new information. Perhaps someone will ask her the bottom-line question that reveals the truthful Jew-hater: Does Israel have the right to exist?
Whether we get that answer or not, this episode has attracted fresh occasions for politicization, as liberals ducking incoming fire seek to deflect with a rousing game of whaboutism. Omar may have stubbed her toe on unfortunate words, they said, but what about those virulent white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville?
What about them, indeed. Any gathering of riled-up idiots showing themselves in a rare display of their dying breed is more pathetic than anything else. It is unsettling to see the scattered evidence that these cave-dwellers still exist, but they always crawl back under their rocks, doomed to the obscurity they deserve.
Meanwhile, someone harboring a brand of bigotry that seems to be on the rise just got elected to Congress. Which is more daunting?
I care very little about categorizing anti-Semitism as “from the left” or “from the right.” It is all to be condemned. But make no mistake: a Republican spreading Omar’s poisonous words would have been run out of town on a rail. If bigotry can be found on all sides, it is vital for accountability to take hold on both sides as well.