Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who is Jewish, did more than back the recent House resolution condemning hate.
Before he voted, the veteran Democrat from Louisville, the largest city in my home state, issued a statement published in the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper that made two rock-solid points:
- You can criticize Israel’s government and not be anti-Semitic. In his statement, Yarmuth cited “a very real and serious problem of humanitarian violations by the Netanyahu government with the United States’ approval.”
- The Republicans are guilty of blatant hypocrisy in denouncing anti-Semitism.
The measure, which passed 407-23, stemmed from Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial remarks that were critical of U.S. support for Israel. Republicans, and some Democrats, claimed her comments were anti-Semitic, or close to it.
Here’s the statement:
There’s no question that Representative Omar was careless in the way she discussed a very real and serious problem of humanitarian violations by the Netanyahu government with the United States’ approval. I know she now better understands the pain and history of the use of anti-Semitic tropes, as well as the weight of her words as a member of Congress. But the flood of sanctimony from Republicans who tacitly condone deliberate bigotry at the highest levels of their party and of this government is the height of hypocrisy. The President of the United States stood up and claimed some Nazis and white supremacists to be ‘very fine people’ after their horrific murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, yet this is the thing that we’re in an uproar over? As a Jewish American and someone who believes all forms of hatred and bigotry must be denounced, I will vote in support of today’s measure. But symbolic procedural votes will not fix the root problems that exist, and the ongoing use of selective outrage by some of my colleagues—for no reason other than to score political points—is a dangerous practice that undermines the office we hold.
Donald Trump panders to hate, non-stop. The president borrows terms from the 20th century’s most murderous dictators. He calls the media (except for fawning Fox News and the rest of right-wing TV and radio) “the enemy of the people,” a slam favored by Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler.
With Hitler’s blessing, Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels smeared as “enemies of the people,” Jews and others the Nazis hated and imprisoned, tortured and murdered.
During his rise to power, Hitler attacked the anti-Nazi press as the Lügenpresse, meaning “lying press.” He muzzled the press when he became dictator.
At Trump rallies on the campaign trail, some of his supporters yelled Lügenpresse at reporters. The term, too, has been resurrected by far-right groups in Germany.
Republicans indeed “tacitly condone deliberate bigotry at the highest levels of their party.” Yarmuth’s fellow Louisvillian, Sen. Mitch McConnell, is Trump’s enabler-in-chief.
“Trump’s willingness to say and do things that most people would shy away from because they are constrained by social norms, or ethics, helped carry him to where he is today,” The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote in a 2017 essay headlined “Donald Trump’s Craven Republican Enablers” and illustrated with McConnell’s photo.
He warned that until the McConnell and the Republicans stop being Trump sycophants, “they will be complicit in the erosion of American democracy.”
In a New York Review of Books essay last year, Christopher R. Browning, an historian who specializes in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, also didn’t pull punches in characterizing the Senate majority leader: “If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell.”