Dems struggle to turn page on Omar controversy

Democrats desperately want to turn the page on a painful week, but doing so is proving to be difficult.

Freshman Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Minn.), who has been the center of a debate on anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred that has exposed deep divisions within the new majority, on Friday signaled she’s not going to stop battling on social media with her critics.

Less than 24 hours after the House adopted a resolution broadly condemning bigotry in the wake of Omar’s comments about U.S.-Israel relations, she launched into a Twitter battle Friday morning with Meghan McCain over the thorny topic.

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Omar did so by retweeting a message from Mehdi Hasan, a columnist for The Intercept and a host of Al Jazeera English, that was deeply critical of McCain’s father, former Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics MORE (R-Ariz.), who died last year.  

“Meghan’s late father literally sang ‘bomb bomb bomb Iran’ and insisted on referring to his Vietnamese captors as ‘gooks’” Hasan wrote. “He also, lest we forget, gave the world Sarah Palin. So a little less faux outrage over a former refugee-turned-freshman-representative pls.”

McCain, a co-host of "The View," ripped Omar for sending out the message, calling it “trash” and “beneath a sitting member of Congress.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE also got into the act Friday, seizing on Omar’s remarks and the House resolution — which, to the dismay of several veteran Jewish Democratic lawmakers, changed from a measure condemning anti-Semitism to one that condemned many kinds of hatred — to argue that Democrats had become an “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel” party.

While Trump’s remarks were condemned by Democrats, they pointed to how Republicans think the week has moved to their advantage.

While every Democrat voted for Thursday’s resolution, the party was divided all week by its content.

Jewish Democrats openly expressed frustration that the measure initiated in direct response to Omar’s invocation of the “dual loyalty” trope didn't focus solely on condemning anti-Semitism.

As angry as Jewish Democrats were, so were some progressives over what they viewed as unfair treatment of Omar.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-N.Y.) began fundraising off a report that pro-Israel activists want to pursue primary challenges against her and other members of their freshman "squad,” including Omar.

“Rashida, Ilhan, and Alexandria have at times dared to question our foreign policy, and the influence of money in our political system. And now, lobbying groups across the board are working to punish them for it,” Ocasio-Cortez’s team wrote in a fundraising email that also referenced freshman Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibFive takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Ocasio-Cortez to endorse Sanders for president MORE (D-Mich.), who, along with Omar, is one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

Caught in the middle of the battle is Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.), who has the unenviable task of bringing her caucus together.

On Friday, she defended Omar for a second day in a row, arguing she is not anti-Semitic.

“I think she has a different experience in the use of words, doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning,” Pelosi said of the Somalian-born Omar, who came to the United States in 1995 after years in a refugee camp in Kenya.

Omar’s critics in her caucus have not used the same language as Pelosi.

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Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, declined to share details of his private conversation with Omar, a member of his panel. But when asked if he believed Omar intended to invoke anti-Semitic undertones, Engel replied, “I have no idea what's in her heart.”

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Oversight panel to subpoena Trump officials next week over deportation deferrals Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort MORE (D-Md.), a Jewish lawmaker who helped draft the final version of the anti-hate resolution, said he also had “a few conversations” with Omar throughout the process. Like Engel, however, he declined to say if he left those talks convinced she doesn’t harbor anti-Semitic beliefs.

“I shouldn't speak for her,” he said after a long pause.

Omar late Thursday joined Tlaib and Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who also is Muslim, in lauding passage of the resolution. Their joint statement led with the news that the resolution marked “the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry.”

The resolution the House voted on was heavily edited.

An initial version unveiled Thursday, hours before the vote, stated that white supremacists had targeted “traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants, and others.” The revised measure went on to include Latinos, the LGBTQ community, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Omar controversy overshadowed the House’s passage of a sweeping election reform bill that was meant to be one of the party’s first major piece of legislation since taking over the House.

Some Democrats were deeply disappointed at that result — and some lashed out at the media.

“Every tweet by a freshman from Minnesota is not newsworthy, no matter how juicy the temptation may be,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyState Dept. official told to 'lay low' after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker Democrats see John Bolton as potential star witness Top State official warned of Trump pressure campaign against Ukraine: report MORE (D-Va.).

Yet there’s also frustration with Omar herself, not just over her choice of words in describing Israeli affairs but for doing so repeatedly — and airing much of it on social media.

“There are members of the caucus who are resentful that she has distracted people like you from a much more important agenda we think deserves attention,” Connolly said.

“That may not have been her intention, but, for God's sake, don't persist in it — knowing now that that's going to happen,” he continued. “[If the media] is following every tweet, for God's sake, take a break, go on vacation … whatever you have to do. But stop so we can refocus on substance. There's a lot of frustration about that, too.”

Supporters of Omar said her colleagues shouldn’t expect her to change.

Omar, Carson suggested, isn’t about to alter her aggressive messaging style.

“On one end, we know that there are members who are going to be free. They're going to candid. They're going to be fearless in their approach to getting their message out,” he said. “There are other folks who are going to be more measured and pragmatic, and I don't think we're in a place to condemn one methodology over the other.”

Updated 9:02 a.m.