Mike Pence on Ilhan Omar at AIPAC conference: Anti-semitism has no place in Congress

It would have been political malpractice for him not to make this point, particularly when the left’s worst elements are pressuring the 2020 field to stay away from AIPAC. If Democrats want to make the annual conference a partisan event, Republicans should avail themselves of the opportunity.

This is one small part of a broader GOP message on Israel aimed at attracting Jewish voters next year and encouraging the tensions between progressives and centrists in the House Democratic caucus. McConnell’s going to put a resolution on the floor of the Senate this week, notes the NYT, that will condemn anti-semitism without naming Ilhan Omar, in the expectation that most Senate Dems will join in. A craftier bit of legislation in the works is the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which would allow the Department of Education to penalize universities that fail to crack down on anti-semitism on campus, including “discriminatory anti-Israel conduct that crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” I’d need to read the legislation before deciding how comfortable I am with that; it’s easy to imagine the line between “anti-Israel” and “anti-semitic” (and conduct and speech) being treated as hazier than it really is by the feds. As a political ploy, though, aimed at pitting pro-Israel Dems against the BDS fans in the progressive wing, it’s shrewd. Here’s a juicy quote from the Times story about Omar:

“I find great irony in what Congresswoman Omar said about the issue of Jews and dual loyalty,” Mr. Krone said in an interview. “I am certain that she found the whole birther movement disgusting, vile and flat-out racist. I agree. It was abhorrent to question the loyalty of President Obama. But how, on one hand, can she say it is wrong about people questioning President Obama’s loyalties, but on the other hand, question mine as a Jew? What she said and what some stupid birther said are equally idiotic.”

Who’s “Mr. Krone”? That’d be David Krone, former chief of staff to … Harry Reid. There *is* a Democratic divide on Israel — and there has been for years, of course, obscured by the fact that pro-Israel opinion was heavily overrepresented in the Dem caucus. That changed (a little) with the election of progressives like Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib last year so now the issue is less obscure. Republicans are taking advantage.

Which reminds me: Although 2020 candidates are staying away, not all Democrats in Congress are avoiding AIPAC. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, was there this week and had a message for the crowd about the Israel skeptics in his caucus — a message which of course he had to walk back once the left found out and started complaining about it.

The House majority leader “clarified” remarks that were seen as jabs at first-year Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…

“This August, I will lead what I expect to be the largest delegation ever” to Israel, Hoyer said. “There are 62 freshman Democrats,” he said and cocked his ear. “You hear me? Sixty-two — not three.”

In a statement Monday, Hoyer said his sarcasm was aimed at the media, not the congresswomen.

“In pointing out that much of the press attention has been on a few new Members in particular, I was lamenting that the media does not appear to be paying enough attention to other excellent new Members who are also bringing important new energy and diverse perspectives to our Caucus and to the Congress,” Hoyer said. “I am proud and excited to serve with all of our new Democratic Members, who reflect the diversity of our country better than any freshman class in our history.”

He’s made that point before. It was a cinch that he’d reiterate it at AIPAC, whose “Benjamins” Omar explicitly blamed for engineering support for Israel in Congress. Go figure that a centrist like Hoyer, who’s worried that the moderates in his caucus will be unseated next year in a backlash to the Democrats’ leftward drift, would go out of his way to stress that Dem freshmen shouldn’t be defined by their most garbage members.

Via the Free Beacon, here’s Pence.