GOP Spooked By Triple Witching
WASHINGTON — By the Republican response to the three most-famous Democratic freshmen in Congress — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — you’d think they were Shakespeare’s Three Witches rather than the three amigas seen chumming and laughing in countless photographs. But then, you’d also infer from Democrats’ counter-response that the GOP’s reaction has been solely an expression of racism, misogyny and anti-Muslim sentiment, rather than the result of legitimate observations of concern. Let’s break it down. First, shame on the media for giving these three women oh-so-much attention. Yes, they’re unique and interesting. Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is the youngest woman ever elected to the Congress. Omar is the first representative to wear a hijab. And Tlaib, also Muslim, is the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the chamber. Their elections, as well as those of two Native-American women, are all news- and noteworthy. After just a few weeks in office, Ocasio-Cortez miraculously produced a big bill — the Green New Deal, a joint resolution co-introduced by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Of course, such bills don’t just happen overnight. Undoubtedly, lots of planning, strategy and little elves with pockets of political savvy pulled the legislation together and handed it off to Markey and the youngest member of Congress, ensuring a Big Green Splash and further burnishing her star. Tlaib, too, became newsworthy when the Detroit lawyer was caught on video early last month telling a MoveOn.org gathering that she had come to Washington to “impeach the mother------,” referring to President Trump. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she’s a declared democratic socialist and she has been a harsh critic of the Israeli government, calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Not least, Omar, too, has invited accusations of anti-Semitism for recently tweeting that Washington politicians push pro-Israel policies because they’re funded by lobbying organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. After incurring a firestorm from nearly all corners, including the Democratic leadership, she issued an apology that was both quick and appropriate. Omar said she meant no offense to Jewish Americans and that “we have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity.” Trump, meanwhile, said she should resign, which is ridiculous. She, like Trump, was duly elected. Regarding money, AIPAC, though a pro-Israel lobbying group, does not actually finance politicians. Omar was also wrong about the nation’s pro-Israel stance being “all about the Benjamins baby,” a reference to $100 bills. As most readers know, the U.S. supports Israel in large part because it is surrounded by countries, including Iran, that deny its right to exist, as well as other states that harbor or support terrorism or are, in the case of Gaza, run by a terrorist organization. It is, in other words, in our national interest to support Israel. But Omar is right when she expresses broad concern about the degree to which legislators do receive contributions intended to curry favor. In her apology, she said she is being educated on anti-Semitic tropes — and is “listening and learning,” which is good advice for all concerned. Republicans, rather than trying to villainize these three new congresswomen and make them the faces of the Democratic Party, should bow to the positive while drawing important distinctions. Isn’t it time Democrats discarded their own arsenal of tropes about Republicans? It isn’t racist to openly worry that Democratic newcomers express anti-Israel views. The fact that the three are female is irrelevant to those concerns. It certainly isn’t anti-Muslim to observe that expressed sentiments might be influenced by one’s heritage or religion. A diverse country requires that all voices and perspectives be heard. An intelligent future demands that the best ideas, not the personalities presenting them, win the day. KATHLEEN PARKER writes for The Washington Post. firstname.lastname@example.org.