Rochford: Bad rhetoric is ubiquitous

John Rochford

Last week President Donald Trump became immersed in controversy against freshman House of Representative members Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, after he criticized the four members in a long tweet. 

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump wrote. “Then come back and show us how it is done.”

Much has been said about the president’s tweet, and much criticism has been expressed, especially with the focus on the “go back” portion of the tweet. While focusing on only that part of the tweet does put it out of context to some degree, I do think the tweet was unbecoming of the presidency, but also unnecessary, for if the president would be quiet, the members do enough to bring criticism upon themselves to the forefront without having to say anything at all.

Moreover, politicians of every affiliation deserve to be criticized for their views and statements.  The media has a habit of defending those politicians they like, especially if those politicians are not white. Indeed, a Rasmussen report details as high of a number as 1/3 of all likely Democratic voters think it is racist for a white politician to criticize a woman of color politician outright.  It is time to get past the racial and intersectional veneer, and fairly criticize people for their ideas, regardless of their physical characteristics, and members of the “squad” are not exempt from this notion. There have been plenty of instances where criticism is well deserved by the members of the four member freshman cohort; instances that many conservative or moderate conservative and liberals have pointed out.

Let us focus on two separate instances from Omar. The first instance occurred in Omar’s 2016 letter to Judge Mark Davis while she was a Minnesota state representative. Davis presided over a trial of nine Somali-American men who had attempted to join ISIS. In Omar’s letter, she wrote in regards of the accused, “A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.” 

There was not much to misunderstand, for one of the accused men, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, admitted during trial, “I was not going there to pass out medical kits or food. I was going strictly to fight and kill on behalf of the Islamic State.”  All men were found guilty and are serving multiple decade prison sentences.


Secondly, this past Spring, Omar, in reference to the 9/11 terror attacks, she seemingly downplayed the tragedy with the comment, “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” 

Of course, we do not hear what those civil liberties she has lost are, and what is more, former President Bush went on to proclaim that Islam as a religion had been skewed for the terrorists’ purposes, and that the United States was not at war with the religion as a whole, and called upon all Americans to recognize that only the terrorists were responsible, not Muslims at large within the United States.  The downplaying seems more apparent when held against other statements she has made in the past. These were only three instances of Omar’s past statements, not including her antisemitic rhetoric from this past Winter that earned a condemnation from the House of Representatives.   

If one wants to condemn the president’s statements and criticism from last week as racist, as many in the community have, then go for it.  However, the intersectional veneer is used far beyond the scope of Trump’s criticism of Omar and the “squad;” it is used as a shield to all criticism generally. All politicians should be held to the same standard.  It does not matter what religion or race you are, it matters what the content of your ideas contain.  It is hard to look at statements like those presented in this article, and the many more that exist, and not feel as if heavy criticism is warranted.