On its face, Trump’s 9/11 video response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s “some people did something” comment appeared to be one of his typical knee-jerk reactions. But it’s really so much more.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET! pic.twitter.com/VxrGFRFeJM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2019
The Atlantic’s David Frum makes the point that it’s part of Trump’s larger strategy to make Ilhan Omar the face of the Democratic Party heading into the 2020 elections. He said “the tweet succeeded perfectly” and “has provoked Democrats to comply.”
The 2020 contenders “rushed to stand with the controversial congresswoman.”
First Bernie Sanders came to her defense in the tweet below.
Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won't back down to Trump's racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 13, 2019
He was followed by Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg.
We are stronger than this president’s hatred and Islamophobia. Do not let him drive us apart or make us afraid.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 13, 2019
Having promised not to “let him drive us apart” from Omar, Democrats are now stuck with responsibility for the reckless things the representative from Minnesota says, not only about Jews, but about other issues, too.
The Democrats are on notice. More remarks will be coming. Against Omar’s propensity to provoke, the Democratic Party seems institutionally almost defenseless.
As an example of how even the party’s leadership falls into line behind Omar occurred when Pelosi tried to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitic expressions. Faced with serious opposition from House members, the measure was watered down to the point of meaninglessness.
Frum maintains that:
After Trump’s tweeted attack, Omar will become even more internally uncriticizable and unmanageable, without becoming any more careful or responsible. Indeed, the speech by Omar that provided Trump with the sound bite he exploited—“some people did something”—itself exemplifies her carelessness and irresponsibility….
The video itself was flawlessly edited. Conservative pundit Ann Althouse described why she felt it was so effective. When Omar uttered the word “something,” Althouse heard “an upward lilt that felt like laughing. And then the look on her face seemed like a smile. That semblance of laughing, in sequence with 9/11 images, had a very powerful effect. It is what ads do. There’s no lying, just an effect created by editing. And the more people complain about it and say it’s not fair, the more viral the ad becomes.”
I understand exactly what she means by that smile. I noticed it when she was grilling the special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, during a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee meeting about a massacre. Although the chilling smile appears throughout the video below, it is most noticeable at 2:10.
Anyway, Frum is really onto something here. He is correct to say that Democrats are falling into the Ilhan Omar trap.
My only quibble is that I don’t think Trump is limiting his strategy to Omar. Trump wants to include the entire unholy trio, Omar, AOC and Rashida Tlaib. And he’ll throw in Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff and any other Democrats who make the party look bad.
Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. He would like nothing better than to run against a Democratic nominee who will have to defend not only the anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism of the far left wing of the party, but their amazingly stupid embrace of socialist policies as well.
The Democrats can underestimate Trump at their peril.