Some takeaways from a recent Washington Post profile of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — and the aftermath:
1. As the old joke goes, never let the facts get in the way of the truth.
The piece detailed how Omar told some students that she had encountered an old woman who stole a $2 loaf of bread to feed her starving granddaughter. After spending the weekend in jail, Omar said, the woman faced an $80 fine she could not pay.
As the Post noted, Omar’s story echoed the plot of “Les Miserables.” Also, Minneapolis city officials said police aren’t allowed to arrest people for shoplifting unless there’s a likelihood of violence or further crime. Typically, shoplifters are sentenced to attend a three-hour class.
Omar acknowledged her likely error to the Post: “I’m not sure. ... The details might not have all matched, but that’s what I remember.”
The piece later recounted Omar telling a group of veterans that about 45% of military families rely on food stamps. The Post corrected her: The actual number is less than 5%.
You ask: What about President Donald Trump and his daily inaccuracies? That just proves the point — fiction has apparently become an accepted tool in national political discourse, as long as the storyteller is in your clan.
2. Grievance, not hope, is what’s selling now. As the Post piece notes, America for Omar “is a place that had disappointed her and so many immigrants, refugees and minorities like her.”
Fox News talker Tucker Carlson has grievances of his own, including against Omar. “She has undisguised contempt for the United States and for its people,” Carlson told viewers last week. “Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country.”
And then he broadened his specific grievance against Omar to include all immigrants. “A system designed to strengthen America is instead undermining it. … She’s a living fire alarm, a warning to the rest of us that we ought to change our immigration system immediately, or else.”
3. These ideological warriors need each other.
The paradox here is that Carlson’s continued focus on Omar only strengthens her hand. She hit back, calling him a “racist fool,” continuing the perpetual cycle of attack and counterattack, ratcheting up her celebrity and buffeting his ratings.
Carlson gives Omar a perfect foil and relegates all criticism — including questions about her taxes and first legal marriage — as the province of the Carlsons of the world, whom Omar’s supporters can dismiss as xenophobes.
In the safety of her indigo blue Minneapolis district, the only conceivable threat to Omar would come from her fellow Democrats. Here’s how U.S. Adam Smith, Democratic chair of the Armed Services Committee, reacted to the kerfuffle: Omar, he tweeted, “fights each day to improve the lives of people throughout America. The comments from Tucker Carlson last night are vile.”
J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican email@example.com