Rep. Ilhan Omar's feistiness divides Democrats, delights Republicans
W.C. Fields' famous line, "I am free of all prejudices; I hate everyone equally," sounded like a new motto for Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota's rising Democratic firebrand, when she took a verbal poke at, of all people, former President Barack Obama.
Omar, the first Somali-American in Congress, became the media's flavor of the week for comments she made about U.S. policy toward Israel that even some Democrats called anti-Semitic for her use of old anti-Jewish stereotypes -- comments for which she apologized.
As the controversy divided Democrats and, therefore, delighted Republicans, the House Democratic majority dealt with the dust-up by passing a generic resolution condemning bigotry and hatred of almost all sorts.
But Omar was not finished expressing bold and audacious statements, even against one of her own party's most popular ex-presidents.
In a sit-down interview with Tim Alberta, Politico's chief political correspondent, Omar stung Obama's policies on drones and deportations, mocked his "pretty face" and scoffed at his "hope" and "change" agenda as an attractive mirage.
"We can't be only upset with (President Donald) Trump," she said. "His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was.
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"And that's not what we should be looking for anymore," she continued. "We don't want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile."
She cited the "caging of kids" at the Mexican border and the armed "droning of countries around the world" on Obama's watch -- and argued that Obama wasn't much different from Trump.
In fact, Obama's policies were different from Trump's, mainly in magnitude. When photos turned up last summer of migrant children sleeping in cages in 2014, former Obama officials pointed out that they were children who had arrived at the border unaccompanied by adults and were waiting to be assigned to families in the U.S.
As for Obama's drone policy, I appreciate that her sentiments are undoubtedly influenced by her horrific experience as a Somali refugee for four years as a child. My view is similarly colored by my experience as a Vietnam-era draftee who recognizes the appeal of sending a flying robot rather than human soldiers into combat. I therefore advocate close oversight and accountability to avoid hitting innocent civilians, a goal that we too often have tragically failed to achieve.