Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters on Thursday about the ongoing controversy around Ilhan Omar and Israel, in comments that fully showed just how bizarre and pointless this situation has become—and how much Pelosi has lost control.
Omar, you will recall, sparked backlash for saying it was important to talk about “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” and that it should not be taboo to discuss the political influence that lobbying groups like AIPAC wield when it comes to Israel.
Her point—which, to be clear, was not an anti-Semitic point in any way—was immediately proven by much of the reaction that followed, in which, for instance, one of her Democratic colleagues said that it was “unacceptable” to question U.S. support for Israel.
Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership initially planned to respond to the situation by issuing a resolution against anti-Semitism, only to find, to her clear surprise, that there was considerable backlash to this thinly-veiled attack on Omar—especially since Omar found herself the target of blatantly Islamophobic attacks at the same time, with some lobbed by the bigoted GOP hypocrites. So now the resolution is going to be about condemning all forms of hatred, or something.
In her Thursday comments, Pelosi showed just how stupid everything about this affair has been. She said she does not believe Omar was anti-Semitic, but that she may not have “understood the full weight of the words” she had said. She also said the resolution was going to be about “anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy” and that it would not mention Omar’s name because “it’s not about her.” Uh, it clearly is about her, but whatever.
Pelosi is clearly trying to manage the divide over Omar that has split open between various factions of her caucus. She’s obviously going to infuriate one side or the other no matter what she does. That’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is that Pelosi seems to have thought going after Omar would be simple and easy, only to find that the political landscape—and her grip on her membership—has changed. All of a sudden, Nancy Pelosi—who has been as predictable an AIPAC-and-Israel ally as any establishment figure in DC—is watching the ground shift under her feet, and she doesn’t quite know how to handle it.