Say No More, Omar

In many ways, Minnesota is a terrific state. It is peppered with good schools and hospitals. The Twin Cities and its surrounding suburbs make up an excellent metro area and host multiple major sports franchises. 

Unfortunately, Minnesota has one fatal flaw: Its citizens have a terrible taste in politicians. Minnesota has voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. The only electoral votes that Walter Mondale won in 1984, outside of the District of Columbia, came from Minnesota.  

We put a professional wrestler in the governor’s mansion. We made Al Franken a senator in the shadiest election in memory. Keith Ellison faced multiple credible allegations of abuse to female partners, but that didn’t stop him from winning the Minnesota Attorney General race by four points. 

However, it is now clear that Minnesota’s freshman Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, has the potential to become the most embarrassing of them all. 

On January 22, Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet that read, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

After an interview with CNN in which Omar claimed that she didn’t know how her comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans, she proceeded to release a statement of apology.

It included, “In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive. It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”

Within three weeks, Omar found herself in hot water yet again. Journalist Glenn Greenwald criticized GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy via Twitter for threatening to punish both Omar and her fellow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for anti-semitic comments. Omar responded to the tweet by quoting Puff Daddy, “It’s all about the benjamins baby.”

In a later tweet, Omar suggested that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an Israeli lobbying group, was responsible for McCarthy’s actions.

This sequence of events led to another apology, in the form of this tweet the following day, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes… This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Man, who knew how hard it was to avoid all these anti-semitic tropes? They seem to be lurking around every corner!  

I understand that not everyone is a polished politician the day they take office, and I always try to give freshman Congressmen and Congresswomen some leeway early on in their terms. 

I wish more politicians came from “the real world.” There is a certain throwback quality inherent in the men and women who didn’t grow up dreaming to sit in a big office on Capitol Hill. Dan Crenshaw is a perfect example of this archetype.

Crenshaw suffered an injury as a result of an improvised explosive device in his third tour of duty as a Navy Seal. As a result, he lost his right eye and was forced to undergo several surgeries to save his left eye. But this didn’t stop him from deploying two more times, and this past fall the veteran was elected into the House of Representatives. 

Thus far, Dan Crenshaw has been a breath of fresh air in Washington D.C. He has consistently pushed back against people with whom he has disagreed, both on the left as well as the right, but he has done so in a manner that oozes class and dignity. 

But I realize that Crenshaw is the exception and not the rule, and I fully expect freshman Congressmen and Congresswomen to make mistakes.

But there is a big difference between not quite grasping the vagaries of political procedure and stepping on the same bigoted rake over and over again. It shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid saying anti-semitic things, and if Ilhan Omar continues to step on landmines, no amount of favorable media coverage will protect her.