The Democrats are on notice. More remarks will be coming.
Against Omar’s propensity to provoke, the Democratic Party seems institutionally almost defenseless. Pelosi was thwarted when she attempted to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitic expressions by House members. Instead, the House substituted more muddled language in which Jews appeared in a laundry list condemning all expressions of intolerance against “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others.”
After Trump’s tweeted attack, Omar will become even more internally uncriticizable and unmanageable, without becoming any more careful or responsible. Indeed, the speech by Omar that provided Trump with the sound bite he exploited—“some people did something”—itself exemplifies her carelessness and irresponsibility. The speech was delivered at a fundraiser in California for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Here’s the full sentence from which Trump took his sound bite: “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
CAIR was, in fact, founded seven years before 9/11. That error should matter to more than fact-checkers. It severs CAIR from its own history of radical advocacy and apologetics.
Omar’s co-headliner at the California fundraising event was a lawyer named Hassan Shibly. Shibly is the lawyer for Hoda Muthana, a New Jersey–born woman who married an Islamic State fighter, proclaimed her adherence to ISIS in writing, and now seeks to return to the United States. Muthana’s case turns on technicalities of the citizenship laws, and she is entitled to legal representation. Shibly has stressed his own condemnation of ISIS and Muthana’s choice to join it. Yet Shibly has also spoken in extreme ways against Jews in Israel and the United States. He tweeted back in August 2014: “God as my wittiness, Israel & it’s supporters are enemies of God and humanity! How many more children must Israel kill 4 U 2 C?#Gaza.”
Some have urged that Omar’s “some people did something” words about 9/11 be understood in context. Let’s try that. After the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, Trump tweeted: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” By using died rather than were murdered—and by describing the crime as “senseless”—Trump abstracted a politically motivated act from the politics that motivated it. The crime became a ghastly tragedy, requiring no words from him about the white-nationalist beliefs of the killer or the larger international movement that shared those beliefs.