To U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and all our leaders: Please resist the urge to tweet on the job! Twitter is too often used simply for insults and snarky witticisms. The format is not ideal for thoughtful policy analysis or debate. In 280 characters, it is certainly possible to dash off a sharp “zinger” or personal insult that provides fodder for comedians and media that thrive on discord and personal drama, but it is not possible in a tweet to convey a thorough, well-reasoned argument. Instead, we get one-liners that momentarily gratify the already angry. Omar’s recent tweets about policy toward Israel might actually be grounded in some good thinking about the role of money in our political system. However, she could not fully explain exactly what she meant in a brief tweet (“It’s all about the Benjamins baby”), thus leaving herself open to all kinds of interpretation, misinterpretation and claims of anti-Semitism. (In her more recent apology, it seems she does understand the value of fuller discourse.) Meanwhile, Klobuchar’s Sunday tweet wondering how President Donald Trump’s hair might fare in a blizzard also needlessly lowered the bar, after an otherwise wonderfully uplifting announcement event. Yes, she was reacting to Trump’s own puerile, ridiculous tweet, but please, senator, hold on to your dignity; don’t stoop to his level! To all of our “leaders,” if you want to use Twitter to convey factual announcements, fine. But other than that, please lay off!
Eileen Deitcher, Shoreview
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Omar may need to learn to better craft her tweets to stay above the unnecessary fracas caused by her remarks regarding the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. By the Star Tribune’s own observation in “Democrats lead rebuke of Omar” (Feb. 12), AIPAC does not contribute to campaigns, but spends millions lobbying. But let’s not ignore what likely lies behind Omar’s concern, which the Star Tribune Editorial Board (“Rep. Omar ignites another tweetstorm,” Feb. 12) and many others have apparently missed in their rush to judgment.
Last week, the Senate passed — with 22 Democrats including our own Minnesota senators supporting — a bill allowing state and local governments to bar contractors from advocating for sanctions and a boycott of Israel. The measure is part of a larger bill framing U.S.-Mideast policy, but this measure specifically opens the door to allow for the criminalization of the exercise of free speech in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS.
BDS is one way to inform and influence the public and decisionmakers when parties are engaged in immoral or illegal practices. It has been adopted by those who are not anti-Semitic but who are sympathetic to Palestinians in the Israel-Palestine conflict in order to highlight the Israel-based companies profiting from the ongoing takeover and destruction of Palestinian settlements.
The bill is now before the House, where passage is less likely but no more divisive, which seems to be the end game of the authors: splitting the Democrats between the progressive and more moderate factions. No one seems to care to ask why our senators are fine with curtailing First Amendment rights; we’re too busy eating our young.
Glen N. Herrington-Hall, St. Paul
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I applaud Rep. Omar’s pulling back the curtain on the Israeli lobbying influence we see in Washington. Israel is not above criticism, and shouting down anyone who is critical of Israel as being “anti-Semitic” is a kind of censorship that must not prevail.
Dan Mostue, St. Paul
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John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt from the University of Chicago and Harvard wrote “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” in 2007 and describe in detail the lobby as a coalition of people and groups in the U.S. who strongly influence U.S.-Israel policy. The result is that the U.S. moved its embassy to Jeruselum, has cut aid to the Palestinians and has not interfered with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Eric Storlie, Maple Plain
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Jews have just as much right to contribute to political campaigns to promote what is important to them as do all other groups. If they are successful in this, all the better. Omar attributed a nefarious purpose to it and, what’s more, wrongly accused AIPAC of paying off congressmen to obtain their support of Israel. It is a smear of AIPAC. She is smearing Jews for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights, and that is just wrong, pure and simple. What’s more, in her tweeted “apology,” she trashed AIPAC once more. That was no apology.
Stuart Borken, St. Louis Park
We ought to better calibrate how we react to and judge transgressions
I will long remember the judge who said to the young woman found guilty of a crime: “Remember, you are not the worst thing you have ever done.”
I think of that often now as I watch public officeholders, their constituents and parties react to revelations of officeholders’ past errors.
What is the most productive way to respond? Certainly, if alleged behaviors are criminal, legal investigations and appropriate consequences should follow.
What then of noncriminal racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic words and actions? Does a person’s age at the time of the transgression matter? Was that person an adolescent or young adult, with limited experience and understanding? Was it a one-time occurrence or a long-term pattern of behavior?
Most important, who is this person now, and how have they handled the situation? By boasting of their ability to get away with their misdeeds, or by acknowledging and owning their ignorance, bad judgment and hurtful decisions? By blaming and shaming their victims, or asking forgiveness? By continuing to treat others as unworthy of respect, or by working to improve the lives of those who were wronged?
I for one want answers to these questions before I demand the impeachment or resignation of those the people have voted into office. I will not participate in the instant condemnation so common in the current political climate. None of us should be defined foremost and forever by thoughts and behaviors we have long ago left behind.
Gloria Ferguson, St. Paul
U.S. REP. AMY KLOBUCHAR
(1) Be the strong woman you are. (2) Don’t try to be two things at once.
I tweeted a message to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar the other day with a funny picture from when we were both probably 6 to 8 years old playing dress-up. I’m excited to hear the senator’s announcement on Sunday that she’s running for president, and I’m hoping she’ll take on universal health care and/or fixing the horrific gaps in Medicare coverage as part of her agenda.
In the last two days, I’ve read from several sources accusations that the senator is a “difficult,” “demanding” boss.
I think if she were a man, they’d call her exacting and precise.
In the senator’s position, she clearly needs to be able to demand a level of perfection from her staff. The potential consequences of subpar work are far-reaching.
I applaud Klobuchar for being a strong woman.
I think we can expect that she also doesn’t smile enough for these same sources.
Go get it, Amy. The strong women in America will have your back.
Kate Beaudin, Minneapolis
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I am a conservative. But I like Amy Klobuchar. She might be the “middle ground” many of us are looking for. But I will never vote for any candidate that currently holds a high-ranking elected position. Who will be doing Klobuchar’s critical work for the state of Minnesota while she is traveling the country campaigning to be president? In what other job, organization or corporation could you hold a well-paid job and spend a great deal of your time campaigning for another one? If Klobuchar wants to run for president, she should resign as senator. Our Democratic governor will appoint another Democrat to take her place. And, as a bonus, Klobuchar will run a much better campaign with all her time devoted to it. It is a shame for the citizens of Minnesota to have our full-time senator spend less than her full time on the business of Minnesota. If you resign, Amy, I just might vote for you. Do the right thing.
David Arundel, Mound