David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who now has a cushy gig writing proto-fascist shitposts for the Atlantic, does not like Rep. Ilhan Omar. Bret Stephens, the climate change denier who now has a cushy gig writing proto-fascist shitposts for the New York Times, also does not like the Somali refugee-turned-elected official from Minnesota. Shocker!
What is consistently appalling to me, however, is how lazy both of these writers are in their attacks on Omar. Take Frum’s latest piece on Sunday, for example, which opens with praise for the president’s shrewd political move of tweeting out a heavily edited juxtaposition of 9/11 footage with one line of Omar’s comments at a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations, something that you can easily see could as inciting violence.
The general thesis of the piece is that by supporting Omar, whose comments at CAIR have been blown wildly out of proportion and used to fuel a week of dangerously bigoted attacks, Democrats have fallen into the trap of supporting a radical, which opens them to new attacks from the right.
Here are the obvious rebuttals: that, actually, it’s good if mainstream Democrats adopt Omar’s progressive views; that this piece and Frum’s entire career right now are an example of Republican guy tries to give advice to Democrats who he’s obviously working against, and that Frum was just looking for an excuse to hate a black Muslim congresswoman because he’s a gigantic bigot.
Here’s fellow bigot Bret Stephens summing it up:
The problem is that Frum never actually makes this point in the piece, instead pivoting to a bunch of supplementary allegations about why Omar is bad and indulging in more bad-faith interpretations of her speech at CAIR. Here’s some choice selections:
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.”
What do Hassan Shibly and Hoda Murthana have to do with Omar, you might ask? That’s a good question! Besides noting that they shared a stage and have both criticized Israel, not a whole lot, but they allow Frum to mention ISIS and Omar in the same breath.
Here’s my favorite bit :
Some have urged that Omar’s “some people did something” words about 9/11 be understood in context. Let’s try that.
Frum does not try that, instead pivoting to comparing Trump’s comments about the Christchurch Mosque shooting to Omar’s comments on 9/11:
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.
“Some people did something” performed exactly the same exonerating service for Islamic extremism as Trump’s tweet about Christchurch did for white nationalism. Like Christchurch in Trump’s telling, in Omar’s telling, 9/11 just … happened. Look no further. Do not ask about the ideas that impelled the crime. Do not criticize those ideas. Do not hold to account those who traffic in dehumanizing language like that used by Omar’s co-headliner in California.
You know what this paragraph doesn’t have? Any more context to the point of Omar’s speech, which was that Islamic extremism and the 9/11 attacks (off-handedly referred once as “some people did something”) had irreparable effects on the Muslim-American community, despite said community’s strong disavowal of terrorism—another layer to a national tragedy. A sharp reader may notice that the two comments are completely different—Trump’s implies that the deaths in Christchurch just “happened,” whereas even Omar’s clumsily worded “some people did something” is written in active voice. The safest money in politics right now—particularly if you’re a conservative opportunist like Frum—is to pile on Omar. And it’s a consistent injustice that the Atlantic continues to fall into the David Frum trap.