Nowadays, when embroiled in controversy, it usually makes sense to double down. If you apologize your allies will resent you. And (most of) your enemies won’t forgive.
It’s one of the many incentives in modern life to behave like a dipsh*t and be proud of it.
In spite of all the backlash, Jarrar told the Cut she “absolutely” stands by her comments.
“I felt compelled to speak up because I want people to remember history. I want people to know that our country’s actions don’t just disappear; they have real, negative consequences,” she said in an email. “If we want a better future, we have to confront our past.” Jarrar elaborated on her criticism of the former First Lady, citing the Bush family legacy in Iraq and Barbara’s comments about Anita Hill (whose claims she doubted) and Katrina victims (she once said evacuees were “underprivileged anyway” and better off in the Astrodome). “The Bush family — including Barbara Bush — supported policies that harmed and destroyed the lives of millions,” she said.
Jarrar is of Egyptian, Greek, and Palestinian heritage and her writing — including her semi-autobiographical novel, A Map of Home, and her short story collection, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali — often touches upon Arab-American and Muslim-American themes. When asked if she believes she received more abuse because of her ethnic background, Jarrar said she does. “I am not the only person who has stated the belief that Barbara Bush was a racist,” she explained. “But women of color routinely have their tone policed, their justified anger painted as hatred, and their criticism of injustice framed as racism toward white people.”
Admittedly, some of the backlash has been … excessive:
Jarrar claims she hasn’t gotten any notice from Fresno State that she’s being investigated. She probably won’t either. Her case has already become a minor cause celebre among free-speech advocates, likely because it’s a rare moment when the interests of liberal and conservative intellectuals overlap. For righties, this is a chance to show the left how conservative speakers feel when universities allow the heckler’s veto to shut them down. For lefties, it’s a chance to preserve the academic’s sacred right to condemn prominent right-wingers in the most acidic terms. Various civil-liberty groups, including FIRE and the ACLU, sent a letter to Fresno State’s president a few days ago laying out the relevant First Amendment analysis in Jarrar’s case and arguing that her speech is clearly protected. The school’s president may have given away the game when he stressed in a statement after her original tweets about Bush that she was speaking in a private capacity, not on behalf of the school. That’s good PR, but once you admit that she was exercising her rights as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, any attempt to oust her is all but dead legally.
The one wrinkle: Jarrar posted the number of an Arizona State student crisis hotline after her Bush tweets, passing it off as her own number and inviting her critics to call. They did — a lot. The hotline, which typically gets five calls a week, was getting 50-70 an hour the next day. The administrators assured people that they don’t think any students seeking help were deterred by the phone logjam, but if Fresno State’s looking for a reason to discipline Jarrar, that’s a more fruitful angle than the fact that she was “disrespectful.” Being nasty to a political enemy who just died is ugly but not unusual. Pranking your critics by getting them to jam up a mental-health hotline is deeply weird and dangerous.
Lefty Michelle Goldberg, writing in the Times a few days ago, made a fair point about Jarrar. What about Roger Stone? Stone is the Republican political dirty trickster turned Trump crony who pops up in Russiagate stories from time to time about maybe having kibitzed with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign. He’s not “mainstream,” exactly, but as a friend of the president’s and a guy frequently quoted in stories about him, he’s not not mainstream either. When Barbara Bush died, he chimed in with this:
“Barbara Bush was a nasty drunk. When it came to drinking she made Betty Ford look like Carrie Nation #blottoBabs,” said Stone. “Barbara Bush drank so much booze, if they cremated her … her body would burn for three days.”…
“She said far worse things about me,” Stone told TheWrap. “Barbara Bush was a vindictive, entitled, mean spirited woman. May she rest in peace.”
He repeated the claim on Alex Jones’s show afterward, emphasizing that Bush was presently “ascending” into hell. Is Stone persona non grata on the right now for sharing Randa Jarrar’s general sentiment? I doubt he’s persona non grata to Trump or to populists, both of whom also hold the Bushes in deep disdain but who (for the most part) were at least too tactful to remind everyone of that while Mrs. Bush was on her deathbed. Not Stone. He’s “politically incorrect” to the very bitter end.