Let's start with a few propositions, as a follow-up to my Friday post: First, too much of our political rhetoric is overheated and intended to whip up outrage. This is a bipartisan phenomenon, though one side's excesses are more likely to be ignored or even embraced by the media. Second, threats of physical violence against anyone, especially public officials, are execrable and unacceptable. That's not discourse; that's intimidation, and it should not be tolerated. Third, harsh criticisms of politicians, even if demagogic, do not amount to threats or "incitement."
In their defenses of Rep. Ilhan Omar, many fellow Democrats and leftist partisans have conflated vehement critiques with incitement, a transparent and deliberate effort to deflect and disqualify entirely reasonable and justified anger over Omar's pattern of incendiary, bigoted, or insensitive comments. She's a walking political problem for the Left, so they're attempting to paint those who notice and object as engaging in dangerous, out-of-bounds rhetoric. It's cynical, and it must not succeed. If this is liberals' new standard, their frequent, vituperative broadsides against President Trump (who faces numerous threats) constitute 'incitement' that must be silenced, for his safety. Their vicious campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination would also certainly have fit the same bill, as he and his family received death threats after Democrats dialed up their language to eleven.
Indeed, virtually any intense denunciations of Republican figures, rhetoric, or policy could arguably rise to the level of incitement under these rules. Remember, the attempted mass assassination of GOP Congressmen on a baseball field was perpetrated by a left-wing extremist shouting about a healthcare bill he opposed, and which Democrats said was "evil" and would kill people. Loudly opposing that bill clearly put lives at risk. Stop the incitement. And imagine the danger liberals have placed Rep. Steve King in through their incitement. Much like Omar, King drew widespread ire over his pattern of deeply insensitive and bigoted comments (unlike Omar, he was confronted with serious consequences from his own party). By calling him a racist, even if true, their words might lead one of their unstable followers to snap and inflict harm. Stop the incitement. Here's another victim:
Former @realDonaldTrump Campaign Aide Carter Page claims he received multiple death threats "based on the incitement of violence paid for by the DNC, and pushed by @TheDemocrats , including congressman Schiff." pic.twitter.com/O935Mlcm2n— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 13, 2019
Under their standards, Democrats should cease all criticism of Page,- and perhaps anyone related to the Russia matter, just to be safe. After all, their words are allegedly putting people in danger. Now, it should be obvious that while I sometimes believe Democratic rhetoric goes over the top and should be aggressively countered and challenged, none of the above examples actually rise to the level of violent threats, or "incitement" thereof. To argue otherwise is to advocate speech-chilling bully tactics that the Left would never accept. Ilhan Omar is a grown adult and an elected representative. She is responsible for her conduct and her language. Her anti-Semitism is a real problem (speaking of incitement, might we point out the explosion in anti-Semitic violence in the West?), and she should also be much more careful in how she discusses very sensitive issues like 9/11 and Al Qaeda.
When I covered this controversy last week, I mounted a qualified defense of Omar's controversial and flippant remarks on both topics. I stand by what I wrote, but I'd like to add some additional context that does not cut in her favor. First, on her seemingly callous shorthand description of the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans ("some people did something"), I noted that part of the problem is that she uttered those words in an address to CAIR, which the US government designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in a massive terrorism funding case in 2007. Writing at The Atlantic, David Frum argues that Democrats are rallying around Omar at their peril, reminding us more about CAIR:
[Omar seeks to sever] CAIR from its own history of radical advocacy and apologetics. 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. Muthana’s case turns on technicalities of the citizenship laws, and she is entitled to legal representation. 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.”
In the other clip being circulated, Omar chuckles as she describes Americans' visceral discomfort in saying words like "Al Qaeda" and "Hezbollah." While I don't believe she was trying to draw the moral equivalency of which she's been accused, one fact I did not know was the identity of the man who was interviewing her in that video. It turns out that she made multiple appearance's on this show, hosted by a radical terrorism apologist and virulent anti-Semite:
People have been passing around this video again. Worth noting that the person she is being interviewed by (& has appeared w several times) is a radical antisemite who refers to Israel as “the Jewish ISIS” and compares Hamas to Holocaust victims. https://t.co/GAxrzaiD6R https://t.co/hB7HjCkJFC— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) April 15, 2019
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar gave multiple interviews to a fringe Arab-American television host, Ahmed Tharwat, who calls Israel the “Jewish ISIS” and has compared the terrorist group Hamas to Holocaust victims. Omar blamed “our involvement in other people’s affairs” for terrorism in a 2013 interview with Tharwat...“Zionism is terrorism,” Tharwat wrote in one tweet that described Israeli soldiers as the “Jewish Taliban.”...In another tweet, he wrote: “An antisemitic person these days, is not someone who hates the jew, it is someone hated by the jews.” ... After the U.S. began bombing ISIS targets in August 2014, Tharwat wrote on Twitter: “Obama should start bombing the Jewish state of Israel.”
This man is a hate-filled crank who downplays or quasi-justifies acts of Islamist terrorism. It's harder and harder to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who associates herself with such a figure. Again, the context makes things worse for her, not better. Does drawing attention to these unpleasant facts constitute "incitement"? I'll leave you with President Trump making clear that he has no intention of backing down, which Frum says is predictable, bad news for the Democrats who reflexively make excuses for her:
Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019