The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Democrats Aren’t Rushing to Defend Chelsea Clinton

(Reuters photo: Andrew Kelly)

Making the click-through worthwhile: some tough questions for Democrats and whether they’re ever willing to tell the progressive grassroots something that they don’t want to hear, Beto O’Rourke’s fundraising mojo doesn’t skip a beat from 2018, some horrific news from Facebook, and Amy Klobuchar tells us it’s time to move on from a particular scandal.

Democrats Avert Their Eyes from an Unhinged Denunciation of Chelsea Clinton

Are we too hard on the Left? Do we engage in “nutpicking” — picking out the nuttiest members of a particular group and citing them as representative?

Chelsea Clinton attended a vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre on Friday night, and New York University students Rose Asaf and Leen Dweik confronted her: “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world,” one of the students told Clinton.“I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”

The argument is that because back on February 10, after Representative Ilhan Omar contended that AIPAC money controlled the views of members of Congress, Chelsea Clinton tweeted, “Co-signed as an American. We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism” — and because of that, the New Zealand massacre occurred. This is the Manhattan Project of guilt-by-association.

Chelsea Clinton, of course, had nothing to do with the awful events in New Zealand; her across-the-board denunciation of anti-Semitism is right, proper, and needed. There is not even a hint of “Islamophobia” or “anti-Islam” sentiment in her Tweet; to contend so is to argue that any criticism of Omar is automatically “Islamophobic.” The event was supposed to be a vigil for victims, and Clinton is pregnant.

The pair are entirely unrepentant; they wrote in a subsequent BuzzFeed op-ed:

Many have said it was unfair to connect Chelsea’s words to the massacre in Christchurch. To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists . . .  Spurred on by professional bigots, anti-Muslim hate now permeates our culture and politics, and everyone, as a matter of urgency, should consider the role they play in enabling it. That includes Chelsea Clinton.

The response to the NYU students on Twitter was mostly critical, but not entirely critical. The responses in the comment section to the article on BuzzFeed are mostly critical of the students. The comments sections over at the Salon and Jezebel about the confrontation are similar — arguments that the vigil wasn’t the time and place for that confrontation, frustration that the students “lashed out at a scapegoat,” laments that there are “idiots on our side,” and remarks in the vein of, “I have no love for the Clintons, but these students are 100 percent wrong on every level.”

(When a comments section believes you’ve been rude, you’ve gone way too far.)

But despite dramatic video of students yelling at the famous daughter of a president, this story has (so far) attracted more attention from conservative media than from mainstream media.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Representative Rashida Tlaib about it, and Tlaib offered no criticism of the students nor any sympathy for Clinton:

When we disagree publicly, when we disagree publicly on various policy agreements, we have to be very careful in the language that we use. And I can tell you, look, I have seen the letters and have seen the various posts from not only Democrats — from Republicans, but also Democrats, that, when we target or disagree, we need to be very careful, in that it’s not feeding into the Islamophobia that is growing in our country.

Tapper pressed further:

TAPPER: But are you suggesting — just help me understand here. Are you suggesting that Democrats who took issue with Congresswoman Omar’s comments did so because of anti-Muslim bias?

TLAIB: I mean, I think that’s part of it. But let me tell you why.  have been there only for a short period of time. And there are members on the other side of the aisle that have been very, very — using various tropes regarding — against my Jewish brothers and sisters, using different kinds of — they have — so-called tweets and different kinds of rhetoric that they support. And many of those are the same people that support this president, who doesn’t want to condemn white supremacy in our country and white nationalism that’s growing. And I want to say, you know, this is what I saw, is this double standard.

By and large, the confrontation with Chelsea Clinton is something prominent Democrats don’t want to talk about, tweet about, or write about. Who stood up for Chelsea Clinton among prominent Democrats? New York City mayor Bill De Blasio. If there were others, I’ve missed them. More people raised eyebrows that Donald Trump Jr. was defending her.

Perhaps other Democrats will join De Blasio as the week goes on, but so far it appears that when two Leftists angrily and publicly confront a prominent Democrat in public in a spectacularly inappropriate way, most of the leaders of the Democratic party prefer to avert their eyes, pretend they didn’t see it, and hope that the news cycle moves on quickly. The irony is that if social media and the comments sections are accurate, a significant chunk of grassroots progressives disagreed with what the students did and how they did it. There’s no political risk in saying, “The students were wrong, Chelsea Clinton’s never done anything to spread Islamophobia, that’s not the way you’re supposed to behave at a vigil, and we as Americans need to stop perceiving every encounter with a famous face as a chance to create a viral video moment.”

This is a rare situation where the progressive grassroots appear to be responding more appropriately and rationally than Democratic lawmakers. Perhaps the small army of Democratic presidential candidates thinks that this will turn into a Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders surrogate fight, and they’re afraid of ending up on the wrong side. But just how big is that risk? If Donald Trump Jr. is willing to stand up for Chelsea Clinton, what excuse does anyone else have?

I’m a longtime critic of the effort to groom Chelsea Clinton for a future in politics, but she still deserves to be treated with respect. The students’ treatment of her at the vigil was appalling and the assertion that she’s somehow even tangentially responsible for the New Zealand attack is nonsense.

Still, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen egregious and demagogic guilt-by-association in American politics. Once another prominent politician suggested that “loud and angry voices” in the United States were spreading hate and paranoia, and denounced the general public’s silence in response to those hate-spreading voices:

We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You ought to see. I’m sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today. Well, people like that who want to share our freedoms must know that their bitter words can have consequences, and that freedom has endured in this country for more than two centuries because it was coupled with an enormous sense of responsibility . . .  When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them, When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable.

That was what Bill Clinton said after the Oklahoma City bombing, appearing to blame conservative talk radio for the attacks.

Looks Like We Will Have Beto O’Rourke to Kick around for a While Longer

Over the weekend, some Democratic primary-watchers thought it was significant that Beto O’Rourke hadn’t announced his fundraising from the first day of the campaign. While it’s only one day, for some campaigns it’s their best day and the day they get the most (and most positive) media coverage. When O’Rourke didn’t announce immediately, some thought the silence was an early indicator he was flopping.

Never mind.

O’Rourke brought in $6,136,736 after declaring his long-anticipated bid with a web video and trip to Iowa on Thursday morning, raising the sum entirely online and from all 50 states, the campaign said.

He narrowly beat the first-day haul of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $5.9 million after announcing his bid last month and who would go on to raise $10 million before his first week was over.

O’Rourke’s going to be around a while, and if he’s not in the top tier already, he’s close.

Should We Witness Massacres? And Where’s the Online Audience for This?

Back when that awful shooting was caught on video in Roanoke in 2015, I wondered whether there was value in showing the video, because as awful as the sequence was . . .  it was the truth of what happened. I can certainly understand not wanting to watch the video, and no one should be required to see it; any organization airing the video should give ample warning. But how do you walk that line between avoiding some of the most horrific sights imaginable and seeing the world clearly, as it is, with no illusions? Understanding the world means seeing some of its worst parts and moments — the 9/11 attacks, the liberated concentration camps, the Zapruder film . . .

But then there’s this jaw-dropping development:

Facebook said that it removed 1.5 million videos of footage from the shooting rampage at two mosques in Christchurch within 24 hours of the attack, underscoring the massive game of whack-a-mole social media giants have to play with even the most high-profile problematic content on their platforms.

In a statement, Mia Garlick, spokeswoman for Facebook New Zealand, said that the company continues to “work around the clock to remove violating content from our site, using a combination of technology and people.” Of the 1.5 million videos of the massacre, filmed by a body-worn camera on the perpetrator almost in the style of a video game, 1.2 million were blocked at upload.

Just how many people were trying to upload the shooter’s video?

ADDENDUM: This just handed to me: Ralph Northam is still governor of Virginia.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar says it’s time to move on from the Northam controversy. Man, life is easy when you’re a Democrat.

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