Monday, April 08, 2019

The Moral High Ground, Lost

Blown opportunity.  On March 6, I wrote (typed)

Yet 6-7 days after Democrat Omar made her comment decrying alleged dual allegiance, House leadership has been unable or unwilling either to remove Omar from the Foreign Relations Committee or to denounce anti-Semitism.

In the coming days, Pelosi and her caucus will do something. The optimum decision would be to remove her from a committee which has jurisdiction over foreign affairs, including in the Middle East, which includes the Jewish state and American ally, Israel.

They did do something. Under the Speaker's leadership, House Democrats pushed through a measure with the support of every Democrat and most Republicans. Omitting the name "Ilhan Omar," the resolution argued "whether from the political right, center or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse."

One Democratic aide, perhaps generously, labeled it "a kitchen-sink resolution." Nonetheless, after its passage I hoped "Omar will learn to curb her tongue and Twitter finger."

So far at least, it appears that she has. However, no one has ever lost money betting against Donald J. Trump making a vile remark- or two. And so it was that when he was

Addressing American Jews on Saturday in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump casually invoked the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty by referring to Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.”

Given that Trump was speaking to Jewish Republicans — including Sheldon Adelson, the American casino magnate who is one of Netanyahu’s biggest donors — the president was not wrong to assume that the crowd was strongly pro-Israel, but the accusation that the loyalty of non-Israeli Jews to their home countries is somehow suspect has a long, ugly history.

Later in his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering, Trump referred a second time to American Jews as if they were Israelis by saying that a victory for Democrats in the 2020 election “would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”

Several journalists expressed discomfort as Trump went on to suggest that his Jewish supporters should explain “to some of your people” in business and finance that they should stop opposing his imposition of tariffs on imported goods.

Prepare to be shocked! shocked! Trump elevated his hypocritical game by remarking during the same speech “Special thanks to Rep. Omar of Minnesota. Oh, I almost forgot. She doesn’t like Israel ... I’m so sorry!”

Trump will be Trump, hypocritical, bigoted, partisan to an unprecedented degree.  But it was a missed opportunity a month ago for the Democratic Party which the President slammed and slandered, and which decided that the words "Ilhan Omar" or even "the congresswoman from the 5th district of Minnesota" could not be uttered in an "anti-hate" resolution.

When Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the process which led to the resolution, the Democratic Party considered criticizing the individual who had made the remark(s) which precipitated the vote.Then it whiffed, instead settling on a grab bag of victims, thus (as one GOP opponent properly quipped) "left out the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we left out Wiccans, we left out Jehovah’s Witnesses, we left out disabled people."

Democrats ceded the high ground on anti-Semitism. It was theirs to lose, and they lost it, lost it under Coach Nancy Pelosi, responding to concerns of the black and progressive caucuses. Now President Trump clearly has accused American Jews of dual loyalty, and the Democratic reaction is....... silence.

It didn't have to be this way. Democrats could have placed in front of House members a statement of disapproval of an apparent anti-Semite, passed it overwhelmingly, and now credibly condemned President Trump.

Instead, leadership made an unforced error in deciding not to offend its pro-Palestinian bloc. Now President Trump, whom Democrats realize is reprehensible, has reinforced one of the oldest tropes about American Jewry. In (lack of) response, congressional Democrats, Jew and non-Jew, cannot find their voice. This was a failure of leadership, and for once it was not of Donald Trump's making. 

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