Strange yet unexpectedly true: Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the single biggest pain in the ass for Pelosi and Democrats from the freshman class.
In fact, if not for the obsession on all sides of political media with AOC, Ilhan Omar’s periodic tweet-farts about AIPAC and dual loyalty would be a bigger story than they already are. She’d be the “new face of the party” to righty critics instead of you-know-who.
But don’t underestimate her. She’s nothing if not persistent in pushing her favorite anti-semitic canards. We can’t be more than a few weeks away from her approvingly quoting something from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, at which point her star will really begin to rise. The latest began with this innocuous statement from a fellow Democrat, Nita Lowey:
Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.
— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) March 2, 2019
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” said Omar at an event last week, an allusion to the dual loyalty supporters of Israel (especially Jewish ones) supposedly feel. Lowey noticed and spoke up — and I’m surprised that she did, frankly: The attitude of most congressional Democrats has been to ignore Omar’s pontifications about Jewish money and loyalty unless they’re unavoidable, like when she tweeted about AIPAC a few weeks ago. Now here was Lowey, a senior Democrat, forcing the issue.
Omar did the only thing she thought she could do, apparently. She doubled down on the dual-loyalty smear.
Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that! https://t.co/gglAS4FVJW
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
Lowey wasn’t going to ignore that:
I believe we can debate important policy without using offensive, painful stereotypes.
— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) March 3, 2019
Liberals like Jonathan Chait and Josh Marshall aren’t ignoring it either. The following reads like an exaggeration but it really isn’t; as far as I can tell, this does succinctly state Omar’s actual beliefs about Israel and its American supporters.
Ilhan Omar's manifest beliefs are that Israel is an evil country which the U.S. should not support, that Jews (except for some "good" anti-Israel Jews) are disloyal Americans, and that non-Jews who support Israel do so because of Jewish money. This is what we're dealing with.
— Kamel Amin Thaabet (@K_AminThaabet) March 4, 2019
Possibly Omar would say that she doesn’t believe Israel is an evil country, just an Israel that’s led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud. We may have a chance to test that proposition soon, as Netanyahu’s facing corruption charges and may be replaced as prime minister by a centrist. In the meantime, Jewish Insider contacted various other House Democrats for reaction to Omar’s latest and it was … not good. Most ominously, Jerrold Nadler warned that Democratic leaders will “have to say something and do something.” Is she going to lose her committee assignments, especially since this isn’t a first offense?
Probably not. Philip Klein noticed this weekend that Pelosi’s office seems to be blissfully untroubled by all of this so far, choosing instead to promote Omar by tweeting and retweeting items related to their new Rolling Stone cover together.
Pelosi is playing a dangerous game here. On the one hand, she tried to make a show of asking Omar to apologize last month. On the other hand, she wants to show herself as promoting the young, diverse class of representatives so as to stay relevant with the energetic base of the party.
But she cannot have it both ways. Omar was elected by her district in Minnesota, so it isn’t within Pelosi’s power to get rid of her. But at the same time, Pelosi doesn’t have to elevate her, as she does by allowing Omar to serve on the coveted Foreign Affairs committee, and by celebrating her on the cover of a national magazine that she then eagerly promotes.
The signal Pelosi is sending is that anti-Semitism will be tolerated, as long as it’s coming from the left.
I think she’d prefer to ignore it — certainly she’d ignore it if Republicans were the only ones criticizing Omar — but conscientious Dems like Lowey and Nadler aren’t going to let it slide. Whether that takes the form of official action or threats issued behind closed doors of lost committee assignments, we shall see. Pelosi might start her reprimand of Omar with a question: Why is she even talking about Israel right now? She’s a freshman; she represents a poor district; there’s no burning debate involving Israeli policy before Congress at the moment; the obvious strategy for a politician in her position is to make allies, try to bring home some bacon for her constituents, and concentrate on building influence. Instead she’s chattering about dual loyalty.
The irony in her going out of her way to alienate fellow Democrats is that the party would love love love to promote her. She’s a walking, talking symbol of racial and religious diversity in the legislature. There’s a reason she’s on the cover of Rolling Stone despite being mostly known thus far for musings about Jews. The party even gave her a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, as if to telegraph that believing that Israel has “hypnotized the world” will be no bar to having an important voice on foreign policy within the party. They’ll make her a star if she just holds off on the ugliest stereotypes of her targets. She can’t do it. Or won’t.