Don’t let politicians deflect criticism by playing victim
The idea that President Donald Trump put Rep. Ilhan Omar in danger because he tweeted criticism of her is absurd.
And yet, it’s become a talking point for Democrats up to and including certain candidates who would like to replace Trump in the White House.
Trump’s criticism of Omar’s remarks about the 9/11 attacks were perhaps a bit overblown. Our commander-in-chief is nothing if not prone to bombast and hyperbole.
One needn’t agree with his criticism to defend them against claims they’ve made anyone unsafe.
Omar has faced threats, to be sure, but Trump is no more responsible for them than Bernie Sanders was responsible for one of his supporters shooting Rep. Steve Scalise and others on a baseball field in Virginia.
What Omar is trying to do is deflect criticism by playing at victimhood.
It’s a practice more common than you might realize. In fact, it’s happening with regularity right here in North Dakota.
Case in point, during the 2018 election I spent a lot of time writing about our nationally important U.S. Senate race between Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
One consistent problem I had in covering that race was Heitkamp’s refusal to respond to me. My requests for interviews and statements went unanswered.
Thus, as is common practice by journalists, I made Heitkamp’s reticence the story.
Because openness is not an unreasonable thing to expect from our politicians.
Some commentators – people who even think of themselves as journalists – thought the problem was me. That poor Heidi Heitkamp was a victim of my too-aggressive criticism.
See how it works? Suddenly the person asking the questions is the problem and the powerful politician who won’t answer them is the victim.
More recently, while writing a story about the left-wing group which helped finance the Measure 1 “ethics” campaign last year, I asked state Rep. Ruth Buffalo about what reimbursements or payments she may have received for her speaking engagement at a posh event that group put on in Tennessee.
Buffalo didn’t respond to me.
Instead she ran to the friendly and credulous folks at the High Plains Reader, a Fargo-based publication that leans heavily to the left (though, admittedly, they had the good taste to publish my columns once upon a time).
“RIGHT WING MEDIA ATTACK REP. BUFFALO,” was the resulting headline.
The “attack” in question being my request for details about Rep. Buffalo’s financial relationship with a national political group that’s been active in North Dakota politics.
The rebuttal to all this is that I’m a conservative commentator. When I’m asking questions of people like Buffalo and Heitkamp it’s probably so that I can be critical of them.
My response is, so what? Do we want our politicians to operate in echo chambers? Should they only be questioned by fawning sycophants?
That probably sounds great to people like Omar, Buffalo, and Heitkamp.
The rest of us should expect something more.
A better class of political leaders would aspire to something more.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.