Phi Beta Cons

Guilt by Association?

Let us now play the world’s smallest violin for Debbie Almontaser, the erstwhile principal of the Arabic-language public school in Brooklyn who resigned before the school opened last term.

A New York Times feature yesterday paints a gratuitously long, yet insubstantial, portrait of the supposed smear against her.
We learn that Almontaser has abiding friendships with Christians and Jews; that she spurned a religious Muslim organization’s involvement with the school and preferred the help of a secular Arab-American association; that she was unfairly associated with t-shirts that read, perplexingly, “NYC Intifada.”
And then, after having painted a portrait of Almontaser as a moderate, we learn: “She also gave $2,000 to Representative Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia.”
The Times explains, parenthetically, that “Ms. McKinney…has had a strong following among Arab-Americans in part because of her criticism of the Patriot Act.”
Anyone who knows of the fabled congressional career of Cynthia McKinney knows that this is not the fully story. The congresswoman also claimed that President Bush knew of 9/11 before it happened, and made numerous anti-Semitic comments while in and out of office. There are, moreover, people like Ron Paul who have an even higher profile in opposing the Patriot Act — yet one can search in vain for an Almontaser donation to him, or to Jeff Flake, or to other congressmen who have been more effective voices against the Patriot Act.
Anyways, an educator who gives thousands of dollars to Cynthia McKinney — where do these educators get thousands of dollars to donate to politicians anyways? — should raise eyebrows. And this is not, contrary the Times claim, “guilt by association” tactics. “Guilt by association” implies that you were tied, without any doing of your own, to something or someone you would likely find unsavory. (If the facts are correct — always that proviso with the Times — it may be said the way Almontaser was played on the “NYC Intifada” t-shirt issue was an unfair use of “guilt by association”). Yet, political contributions are associations embarked upon on a wholly voluntary basis. A nearly maxed-out donation to ex-Rep. McKinney should, as it did, raise questions.

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.


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