Has the controversy surrounding Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments actually turned into an embarrassing scandal for Republicans? In some quarters of the media, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”
That bit of conventional wisdom began to congeal as soon as the House passed an “anti-hate” resolution Thursday night. The resolution didn’t mention Omar by name and broadly condemned many types of bigotry — anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia and white-supremacist persecution of “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.” Some House Democrats like Ted Deutch of Florida and Eliot Engel of New York joined Republicans in disagreeing with House Democratic leaders who, under internal pressure, turned the resolution into a broad condemnation of almost all forms of bigotry rather than a resolution solely focused on anti-Semitism.
But in the end, every Democrat voted for the measure, while 23 Republicans voted against it. And that was the real story of the day, according to some.
“House Democrats have been under pressure for a week on anti-semitism but House Republicans have bailed them out,” tweeted Politico’s Jake Sherman. “An embarrassing moment for house gop.”
“This is going to be hard to explain,” tweeted Michael Barbaro of the New York Times.
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post wrote in an article that Republicans like Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Lee Zeldin of New York, who voted against the measure, had “snatched back the mantle of racial and religious insensitivity, announcing to the world that they couldn’t possibly be against both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
What’s odd, or perhaps not so odd, is that Rubin doesn’t include a single quotation from any Republican explaining why he or she voted against the measure.
Here’s how Cheney explained her vote in a statement:
Today’s resolution vote was a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.
While I stand whole heartedly against discrimination outlined in this resolution, the language before the House today did not address the issue that is front and center.
Rep. Omar’s comments were wrong and she has proven multiple times that she embodies a vile, hate-filled, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bigotry. She deserves to be rebuked, by name, and removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee so that there is no mistake about the values and priorities that the House stands for.
For Democratic leadership to kowtow to their radical members and refuse to offer legislative language that criticizes Rep. Omar’s statements in the strongest possible manner confirms what we already knew: that their party is controlled by far-left extremists who can’t even muster the courage to stand up to blatant anti-Semitism.
This is a sad day for the House and Democrats’ lack of action is fully responsible for bringing us to this unfortunate moment.
Lee Zeldin made many of the same points in a floor speech. He also noted that, following Iowa Republican Steve King’s comments about white nationalism in January, Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments, and the whole House passed a resolution naming King and specifically condemning white nationalism. At the time, Cheney said King should resign from Congress.
You might still disagree with how Zeldin and Cheney voted, but after reading and listening to their explanations it’s hard to see how anyone could think their opposition to the resolution — not the defenses of Omar made by Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn, and 2020 Democrats; nor Omar’s anti-Semitism itself — is the real scandal here.