by Robert Romano
“Go wherever they want them, or they can stay. But they should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country. You look at what they’ve said. I have clips right here. The vilest, most horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others. It’s up to them to do what they want. They can leave, they can stay. But they should love our country, and they should work for the good of our country.”
That was President Donald Trump’s response on July 16 to the flap over his tweets blasting U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
Trump had tweeted on July 12, “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now 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. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how… it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
As usual, the response to Trump’s comments is disproportionate and over the top, with unfounded charges of racism and being un-American. While perhaps ill-considered — of the four, only Omar was born overseas in Somalia — but like almost everyone in the U.S. they are the descendants of those who came to America one way or another. What he says was also divisive, but Trump does have a point about some of the divisive statements that have been made by these representatives. Readers can decide which were worse.
On Feb. 10, Omar had tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in response to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) calling for Omar and Tlaib to be reprimanded by the House of Representatives for statements against Israel. When asked who she thought was paying off Congress, Omar tweeted, “AIPAC!” in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, suggesting that Jewish money was controlling Congress. That’s pretty anti-Semitic and racist. Omar has since deleted the tweets.
Omar has also joked in 2013 about those who speak of al Qaeda and Hezbollah harshly but do not do so for the U.S. Army, America or England, saying, “But you know, it is that you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You don’t say ‘the army’ with the intensity… But you say these names [Al Qaeda] because you want that word to carry weight. You want it to be something.” Al Qaeda and the U.S. Army have no moral equivalence, as if members of Congress were neutral observers of who meets on the battlefield. No, Omar’s job is to provide support to the armed forces. Does she still think al Qaeda and the Army are the same?
At a rally in North Carolina, supporters of President Trump, unfortunately, chanted “send her back” when Trump brought her up. That’s not going to happen, but it does reflect the perception of Americans who do not appreciate immigrants who do not love this country. She’s got a right to her opinions under the First Amendment and so do they and the President for that matter to respond.
Tlaib in a May 10 podcast of Skullduggery said thinking of the Holocaust gave her a “calming feeling”: “There’s always kind of a calming feeling I tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports. And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time. And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away and it was forced on them.”
Those comments are pretty insensitive, anti-Semitic and not even really accurate. Here, Tlaib is romanticizing the tragedy of the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews and 11 million Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, and others were murdered. Besides that, Jews have lived in the lands of the current state of Israel for centuries predating the Holocaust. Modern Zionist movements and emigration to Israel also predated the war. During that period and after the war, the creation of Israel was not accepted by the Arabs. The official establishment of Israel in 1948 led to the war of independence and the series of wars that followed in the ensuing decades. Arabs did not create any safe haven for Jews in Israel and to suggest they did is an absurd proposition.
And during the war, as noted by Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner, “the Palestinian leader at the time, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, met with Adolf Hitler and allied with the Nazis,” referring to an article from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum stating, “al-Husayni collaborated with the German and Italian governments by broadcasting pro-Axis, anti-British, and anti-Jewish propaganda via radio to the Arab world; inciting violence against Jews and the British authorities in the Middle East…” To ignore this context is yet more revisionism. And as Klein noted, “she was making this claim in the context of arguing for a one-state solution, the goal of which has always been for Arabs to overwhelm the Jewish population, and then force them as a minority to be governed by the people who are currently launching rockets at them.”
As for Ocasio-Cortez, on June 18 she tweeted, “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis…”
Another absurd proposition, and certainly anti-American, when everybody in federal custody is subject to judicial review but nobody in a concentration camp ever was. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum makes this distinction, stating, “What distinguishes a concentration camp from a prison (in the modern sense) is that it functions outside of a judicial system. The prisoners are not indicted or convicted of any crime by judicial process.” Almost everybody detained in Nazi concentration camps was held without any legal basis, whereas almost everybody detained by the Border Patrol was captured entering the country illegally or to assert an asylum claim, both of which are subject to legal reviews and ultimately judicial review.
Moreover, in federal custody today, whether by the Border Patrol, ICE or prisons, almost everyone lives with mortality rates less than 1 percent with natural causes being the leading cause, whereas in Nazi concentration camps during the war, mortality rates were north of 95 percent or worse, with murder being the leading cause. Upwards of 20 million died in the camps system, the ghettoes and by the mobile killing squads, and less than 500,000 survived when the camps were liberated.
This rhetoric may have even inspired the ICE firebombing attack on July 12 by a member of Antifa, Willem Van Spronsen, who was shot dead by police and whose manifesto ran with Ocasio-Cortez’s ridiculous concentration camp comparison.
We can address conditions in the detention facilities where Congress only provided 52,000 beds and there’s more than 100,000 people being apprehended crossing the border every month (of which about 18 percent are asylum claims of fear in FY 2018 but I suspect that number is rising significantly in FY 2019) and create more deterrents to illegal entry. Congress can do that.
But by my count AOC voted against border security supplementals and the bipartisan $4.6 billion humanitarian bill that just passed to provide aid on the border and to address those conditions at the facilities. A majority of Democrats, 129 to 95, and almost all Republicans supported that bill, but not AOC, and then she wants to complain about the conditions in the overwhelmed, overcrowded facilities. She had her preferred version of that bill, and it was in that context she made the concentration camps comparison, but lawmakers went with the Senate version. Even if the House version had passed, I doubt it would have assuaged Ocasio-Cortez’ views about the concentration camps. You don’t go from Nazi Germany to a humane republic by passing one bill.
And Pressley, on July 13 she suggested at the Netroots Nation conference, “If you’re not prepared to come to that table and represent that voice, don’t come, because we don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice.”
It is no understatement to suggest that if a white member of Congress had said “we don’t need white faces that don’t want to be a white voice” it would have been rightly pilloried as racist, and if that representative had been a Republican, he or she would have resigned by now. Yet, today, there are no calls for Pressley’s resignation from members of her own party nor from the media that openly protects racism in the Democratic Party.
And let us be clear: It is racist for a member of Congress to say that, on the basis of race, an individual should represent their race first and not their nation as a whole. It contradicts our national creed: “Out of many, one.”
A quick look at the demographics of Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District that Pressley represents bears this out: 33 percent are White, 26 percent are Black, 22 percent are Hispanic and 11 percent are Asian. Is Pressley suggesting she only represents the 26 percent of her district who are Black? I don’t think that’s the way our representative system was envisioned. James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 52, “the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.”
I’ll go further. I think it suggests a lack of belief in America as a nation at all. More than anything, we’re founded on the proposition, the idea, that all persons are created with equal rights and liberty. It is also an aspiration. We did not start there originally, but with great leaders and great struggles including the Civil War, we have expanded the franchise and become a stronger nation as a result. We all come from different backgrounds, but we all share this country.
But do we have a country anymore? I think the State of the Union is poor. And I don’t think it’s Trump’s doing. Here is where I agree with Trump the most in his more recent statement. We shouldn’t hate America. We should be working to make it a better place. Tearing it down, comparing it to Nazi Germany — a monstrous lie — saying that we should represent our race before our country, suggesting that Jewish money controls Congress, is destructive. It fuels division. And I, for one, am glad President Trump called it out. It’s about time someone did.
I think most people get it. I don’t think what he said was racist. I know others are disagreeing. I just think there is a context and it’s not like he suggested out of the blue, if you don’t like America, then leave, he’s responding to representatives who are saying pretty hateful things that are frankly dangerous. What they said has context, too, but it is extremely misguided. Antifa just tried to blow up an ICE facility and the bomber who was shot dead was using AOC’s rhetoric. They think we literally live in Nazi Germany and almost nobody but the President is forcefully denouncing that rhetoric.
Let me add I don’t think this overall is his best moment. He can do a lot better than this. But so can they. We have real problems as a nation we must fix and that can only be fixed together.
In his latest statement on July 16, quoted above, Trump was far more conciliatory. His second statement that “Go wherever they want them, or they can stay. But they should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country” acknowledges that the first was indeed divisive. Now I call on the representatives he is rightly criticizing to do better, too.
So, let us all do better and elevate our discourse, and unite this country, not on every issue, but in a determination to represent all Americans and try to solve at least some of these issues.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Photo “Ilhan Omar” by Ilhan Omar.Photo “Rashida Tlaib” by Rashida Tlaib. Photo “Ayanna Pressley” by Ayanna Pressley.