It’s so utterly typical of how fevered Americans of all political stripes have become in the last decade or so (and especially in the Age of Trump, which began as soon as he declared his candidacy for presidency): The more verbiage that’s spilled over the clash that’s developed over controversial recent remarks by the four Democratic Congresswomen comprising the so-called Squad, and President Trump’s reactions, the more confused and dangerously simplistic this rhetorical gang war becomes.
So for the record, here’s my effort to spell out the only reasonable conclusions to draw about the main participants – and especially Mr. Trump and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who have generated the most intense reactions pro and con. Also utterly typical of the times: I have no doubt that few of you readers on any side are going to be entirely pleased.
My bottom line: There can be no reasonable doubt that the President was deeply and offensively wrong when he tweeted that Omar and the other Squad-ers should “go back” to their troubled countries or origin and help fix their problems instead of “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.” But there can also be no reasonable doubt that there are entirely reasonable grounds for finding many of Omar’s own statements repugnant and insulting enough prompt speculation about her allegiance to the nation – in an emotional, if not a legal, sense.
Of course, the Trump tweets were completely and inexcusably inaccurate in the case of Squad members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – who are all American born. And since all four of the Squad-ers are women of color, he once more opened himself up to reasonable charges of racism, or at least expressing racist views – since his phrasing unmistakably equated being non-white with being foreign-born.
In my view, Mr. Trump was simply once again being stupid and sloppy. Still stupider on the President’s part: As a result, he’s legitimized at least some of the race-mongering of four politicians who have been among the most flagrant race-mongers seen in American politics since the heyday of segregationist resistance to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
But what I want to focus on here is that he plainly stepped in it, and needlessly deepened national divisions. Presidents should try to do the opposite.
In this vein, also deeply and offensively wrong have been the President’s “love it or leave it”-type tweets and subsequent remarks, whether meant for the Squad or for anyone legally or even illegally living in America. Everyone resident here enjoys full Constitutional free expression protections. Period.
Worse still was the “Send her back” chant that broke out during his rally in Greenville, North Carolina last week. All those participating should have their proverbial mouths washed out. For unlike the “go back” Trump tweets and statements, this call amounted to a demand that Omar be forcibly removed from the country for her opinions. The President (who certainly knows how to egg on a crowd) never encouraged these cries, and in fact looked pretty unhappy while listening to it for its 13-second duration. But he didn’t move to quiet it. So even though he has never expressed this sentiment and disavowed it subsequently, it’s entirely fair to charge that he badly flunked the leadership test passed with flying colors by the late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain during his unsuccessful presidential campaign of 2008.
Still, none of the above can create any reasonable doubt that Omar is an anti-American ingrate – and that as such, Americans (including President Trump) have every right to be offended by many of her own remarks, and even to wonder why (but not to favor expelling her), if her affinity with her adopted country is so threadbare, she’s chosen to stay.
This question of identifying with America is crucial because no one can legitimately question the loyalty or identity of Omar (or the other Squad-ers, or other Americans) for denouncing specific current and past U.S. policies and circumstances in the most vehement possible terms. Moreover, as noted in this must-read (especially for Trump supporters) Washington Post piece on many of the President’s own statements, Mr. Trump’s record is full of such sentiments, too. (Portraying the country’s very founding – as has become all too common on the far Left – to be an act grounded in white supremacy is another matter, in my view. But I haven’t found any comments from any of the Squad-ers deserving of that description.)
These allegations are easily supported by Omar’s unquestioned belittling of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks by violent Muslim jihadists, by her giggling dismissal of Americans’ fear of Al Qaeda, the jihadist terrorist group that planned and carried out these attacks, and by her call for lenient treatment for young Somali-Americans convicted of planning to join another jihadist terror group, ISIS. Slighting the importance of an event that claimed thousands of American lives and generated thousands more casualties, ridiculing the idea that the perpetrators are a major threat, and sympathizing with those seeking to join an equally hostile organization – this record is so far out of the range of normal that it does indicate a fundamental alienation from her adopted country.
The question of Omar’s gratitude matters, too. Again, it’s by no means illegal. But as opposed to given its long and deep roots – this Washington Post profile shows that it began practically from her arrival and continues today – it also quite naturally raises the question of why, during all these years, she hasn’t concluded that she’d be better off somewhere else. After all, she’s still quite young, she has most of her life ahead of her, she’s a gifted orator and politician, she clearly has had the means to leave for some time. And surely there are countries beyond America’s borders that haven’t conducted foreign policies so brutal and otherwise disgraceful that they haven’t provoked (understandable, as she sees it) jihadist retaliation, and that have been more welcoming to Muslims.
In other words, Omar has a perfect right to stay and engage in any Constitutionally protected expression she wishes. But I and others have an equal right to express outrage and also to proceed to ask “What gives?” without being slimed for intolerance. And to attack President Trump for blurring these vital distinctions. Meanwhile, all of us should be discouraged that so many of us evidently can’t keep them straight, either.