The Morning Jolt

Elections

Ilhan Omar and Ralph Northam’s Cheap Apologies

Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) participates in a gun violence prevention roundtable with former Representative Gabby Giffords in Minneapolis, Minn., October 26, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What the not-terribly-heartfelt apologies from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Governor Ralph Northam teach us about politics in 2019, Beto O’Rourke acts like a presidential candidate without actually bothering to announce that he’s running for president, we might avoid another government shutdown, and a key point to remember when people start defending the Green New Deal resolution.

Cheap Apologies

After declaring on Twitter that congressional support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins, baby” — a reference to $100 bills — from AIPAC, an organization that makes no direct political contributions, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar apologized after a day of bipartisan condemnation. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” Ms. Omar wrote, adding, “I unequivocally apologize.”

This comes a few weeks after she apologized for a 2012 claim that Israel “hypnotizes the world” and past statements condemning “the apartheid Israeli regime.”

Virginia governor Ralph Northam refused to resign despite a rare, broad, bipartisan consensus in support of his departure, and now he is launching a “listening tour” across the state. (Apparently he’s willing to listen, just not to people who think he shouldn’t be governor anymore.) BuzzFeed reports, “Northam has also been urged by his advisers to watch parts of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, which shook the country with its racist and disturbing view of black Americans after the Civil War. (Northam was not previously familiar with the racist depictions in the film, an adviser said.)” It’s easy to understand not having seen The Birth of a Nation; because of its controversy and age it’s not often screened. But how do you live your whole life in Virginia and rise in the state’s politics — representing a state-senate district that is nearly 30 percent black — and not . . . be familiar with The Birth of a Nation as a racist film? The Ku Klux Klan are the heroes in the story!

Few partisans enjoy kicking out somebody from their own party, particularly if they voted for that figure,“invested” in that figure in the form of donations, had access to his ear, or foresaw great things from him in the future. Voters very rarely “reward” a party for doing the right thing and getting rid of a creep, a demagogue, or a scoundrel, and a lot of voters are willing to forgive a lot for a guy who they’ve voted for in past cycles. (In 2018, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter Jr. won reelection under indictment. Collins’s trial on insider-trading charges will begin in February 2020, and Hunter’s trial for using campaign funds for personal expenses will begin in September.) From a raw cost-benefit analysis, doing “the right thing” and telling the misbehaving guy in your own party he’s got to go almost never “pays off” in a tangible way.

The alternative reaction, forgiving and/or making excuses, is so much easier. We like forgiveness and redemption, even in non-cynical contexts. Almost anyone’s misdeeds, sins or crimes don’t look so bad once you apply the “look at his whole life” lens. (“Think of all the people O.J. Simpson didn’t kill!”) We convince ourselves that a little bribery, a little skirt-chasing, a little teenage blackface or whatever is forgivable . . . particularly for someone who “fights for the right thing” elsewhere and when we consider all the bad things that we’re certain the other side does . . .

But what we’re living with now is what happens when both sides become convinced that holding your own guys accountable for their misdeeds is a fool’s game and amounts to unilateral disarmament. I’m not convinced this is the case, or the tired cry, “We always eat our own.” Step back and look at the big picture. The kinds of candidates who get in this kind of trouble — Steve King, Northam, and the rest of the Virginia gang — often turn out to be political liabilities for the party or movement as a whole.

Do Democrats really think that they would be in worse shape without Ilhan Omar or Ralph Northam in the future? Collins and Hunter deserve their day in court, but if they’re found guilty of the accusations, would their departure from public life really be such a dark day for the GOP?

What Is Beto O’Rourke Doing?

This morning, many media organizations are treating Beto O’Rourke’s counter-rally in El Paso as if it was a big deal. Politico describes it as a “showdown between Donald Trump and Beto O’Rourke.” A more accurate headline would have been:

Former Congressman and Unsuccessful Senate Candidate, Last Seen Wandering the American West like Jack Kerouac and Being Strangely Reticent About Declaring a Presidential Campaign, Holds Rally Against President Near President’s Rally

Admittedly, that headline is a little longer and clunkier.

Once again, we’re left asking . . . what is Beto O’Rourke doing? Had he announced a bid for president last night, it would have been the perfectly dramatic campaign kickoff, going head to head against the incumbent president, making Amy Klobuchar’s snowstorm announcement look boring by comparison. A week ago, he did an interview with Oprah, another high-profile venue, and said he was thinking about it . . . but apparently he’s either still thinking about it, or he wants to run these sort of rallies as a “soft opening” to his campaign.

There are eight major declared candidates, nine if you count Congressman John Delaney. The other candidates are already hiring staff, setting up campaigns, walking around and shaking those coffee shops in Iowa and New Hampshire — and a bunch of them are currently serving lawmakers. O’Rourke has no day job to ignore! This would presumably be one of his competitive advantages.

The other revelation of last night was that O’Rourke will continue to get Obama messiah-level coverage if he does jump in. World-famous photographer Annie Liebovitz is following him, taking pictures. He’s getting his own campaign documentary aired on HBO. (Just how much are we going to see that’s new in a documentary about the most heavily covered and heavily hyped Senate campaign in a generation?)

No Shutdown . . . Probably.

Good news, we appear to be on a path to avoiding a government shutdown . . . as long as no one gets into the ear of Trump or Pelosi that they’ll get a better deal by shutting down the government and waiting for the opposition to capitulate.

Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed Monday night to far less money for President Donald Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4 billion, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

Get that $1.4 billion out the door and spent on wall materials fast!

ADDENDUM: Every time you see someone on the Left insisting that talk of banning airplanes or a campaign to eliminate cow flatulence is GOP paranoia, and using the argument ‘the Green New Deal resolution doesn’t include that,’ remember that assertion is a spurious dodge. A House resolution is not the same thing as legislation to enact the plan. A resolution just declares, ‘we should do this.’ It has few details on how the goals — such as replacing roughly 88 percent of current U.S. energy production within 10 years — would be achieved.

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