If you're late to this controversy, Rep. Ilhan Omar -- whose anti-Semitic tweets have landed her in hot water on several occasions since she joined the House of Representatives in January -- is once again under fire, this time for comments about 9/11 and terrorism. In a recent speech to the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Omar at one point referred to the 2001 jihadist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans this way:
Ilhan Omar mentions 9/11 and does not consider it a terrorist attack on the USA by terrorists, instead she refers to it as “Some people did something”, then she goes on to justify the establishment of a terrorist organization (CAIR) on US soil. pic.twitter.com/ixP3BJfqxS— Imam Mohamad Tawhidi (@Imamofpeace) April 9, 2019
In another unearthed video, Omar joked and laughed about the intensity with which a college professor said the words 'Al Qaeda,' noting that Americans don't similarly bristle at references to the US military or England:
As someone who lived through 9/11 (it was the worst day of my life to date), and whose father was working in lower Manhattan that morning, I'll make this point: I would not talk about that horrific mass slaughter, or the people who perpetrated it, the way she did. Her apparent tone-deaf flippancy in both clips made me wince. If I were a public official -- especially if I were one of the highest-profile Muslims ever elected in the United States -- I honestly believe I would be doubly cautious and sensitive about how to approach these painful subjects in public remarks. That being said, I'm not as outraged by Omar's comments as others seem to be. The first clip was a parenthetical, the larger context of which was to suggest that despite the actions of a few radical Islamists, the larger Muslim community was demonized and suffered undue discrimination. Whether you agree with her point or not, that's how I interpreted what she was trying to say. The second clip struck me as uncomfortable gallows humor from a Muslim describing how other Americans discuss Islamist terror groups in a post-9/11 world. I agree that chuckling through those comments, almost like a comedy routine, feels strange and off-putting, but I don't believe she was trying to draw a moral equivalency between the United States and Al Qaeda or Hezbollah.
Yes, her anti-Semitic comments and subsequent victimhood posturing call into question her good faith on these matters (as do some of her defenses this time around, which I'll address in a moment), and she has asserted things about America that suggest a grave misreading of our fundamental greatness, warts and all. It's also reasonable, I think, to point out that her throw-away euphemism about the worst-ever terrorist attack on US soil was delivered to an organization that the US government identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terrorism financing case. Neither of those factors mitigate Omar's optics problem. Nevertheless, I try to be fair and honest about how I assess people's words, and I'm very much on the record as being quite suspicious of outrage mobs. If there are innocent or neutral explanations for apparently inflammatory comments in firestorms like this, I try to be open-minded to them. I don't believe that Omar is a victim of baseless attacks over the videos above, but I also think there's a difference between cringe-worthy tone-deafness and myopic insensitivity on one hand, and deliberately minimizing or dismissing the catastrophe of 9/11 on the other. In my estimation, she's guilty of the former, not the latter.
What has been much more offensive to me are the myriad defenses deployed by her, and on her behalf, in the wake of this flare-up. The New York Post cover may have been a bit much, but Rep. Dan Crenshaw did not libel Omar by quoting her words directly. People who were rubbed the wrong way by what Omar said are not guilty of "pure racist acts," as another Muslim member of Congress with her own serious anti-Semitism issues has averred, with various lefties parroting the smear:
It is patently obvious that @IlhanMN wasn't trying to downplay the 9/11 attacks. Crenshaw is twisting her words because she's black, muslim and the GOP and Fox wants to paint her as foreign and un-American. Democrats should call out his bullshit. So should the media. https://t.co/WfHxFRqemz— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) April 11, 2019
Harshly criticizing elected officials over their rhetoric is also not "incitement," another stupid claim being test-driven by knee-jerk demagogues and Omar apologists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. It's true that Omar has received threats. That's unacceptable, and people who cross clear lines must be held accountable. But nearly everyone in public life receives threats -- including, and especially, the President of the United States. If stinging criticism of Trump amounts to "incitement," then people who've called him a traitor and even a non-human (guess who uncorked that dehumanizing slur?) should fear legal ramifications, or should at least be pressured to cease and desist with their criticisms. And if provocative political broadsides supposedly endanger people's safety, AOC should immediately delete her Twitter account.
We all know that Trump would never get away with arguing that because he receives threats, harsh opprobrium against him must stop because it's tantamount to incitement. Any such claim would be rightfully and scornfully laughed off as an insane and clumsy attempt to stifle legitimate and protected political speech, in order to avoid criticism. The exact same standard applies to Omar, et al. The moronic "incitement" talking point, coupled with requisite "woman of color" addendums, is nothing more than a cheap and cynical silencing technique. As for AOC's mind-bending complaint that Crenshaw hasn't done enough for 9/11 victims, and hasn't done his part to stop violent extremism, I addressed it rather pointedly on Fox News last night:
After thousands of his countrymen were murdered, Crenshaw volunteered for duty, put on the uniform, shipped off to Afghanistan, and lost an eye to the enemy. Show some respect and gratitude. I'll leave you with Ben Shapiro succinctly slapping down another insultingly dense "defense" from Omar, in which she attempted to compare her 9/11 comments to President Bush's famous bullhorn speech from the World Trade Center rubble:
That quote was Bush THREATENING the perpetrators of 9/11, not downplaying their evil https://t.co/7OfrphiN5F— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 12, 2019
It's astounding that such an explanation is even necessary, but as Nancy Pelosi has said explicitly, Ms. Omar may not understand the meaning and gravity of words. Still, Omar is a duly-elected member of Congress. She's an adult. And she's responsible for her words. In my opinion, the feeble spin and demagogic counter-attacks employed in her defense are worse than what she originally said. Sadly, I suspect she'll yet again learn all the wrong lessons from this episode, choosing to remain a victimhood-claiming lightning rod, with fellow tribal partisans all too eager to contort themselves and lash out at others on her behalf.