Keillor: Liberals elected Omar to ‘feel better about themselves’

Garrison Keillor has gotten some people stirred up again thanks to his assessment of the election of 2018 and, specifically, the election of the first Somali-American from Minnesota to Congress.

It’s just as well he didn’t, although he was urged to do so by some Facebook “fans.”

“Wait and see,” he replied.

It’s hardly the first time the humorist has used cryptic innuendo and mystery to belittle a winning candidate. His 2002 article in Salon following Norm Coleman’s election to the Senate seat still stands as the definition of crossing the line.

Norm got a free ride from the press. St. Paul is a small town and anybody who hangs around the St. Paul Grill knows about Norm’s habits. Everyone knows that his family situation is, shall we say, very interesting, but nobody bothered to ask about it, least of all the religious people in the Republican Party.

Sixteen years later, Keillor is using the new coded language in Minnesota politics, particularly in districts where demographics are changing and the old guard is reluctant to see the value in that fact, suggesting that a woman of color didn’t earn her victory on Tuesday night, and that she wasn’t qualified to hold a congressional seat, but that she only made it to Congress on liberal — code for white — guilt.

He didn’t mention her by name.

It’s Ilhan Omar.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher “was far more qualified,” he said, bringing a retort on Keillor’s Facebook page from voter Nancy Jane Bitenc:

Ilhan Omar was in the MN House of Representatives and is the first refugee to be elected to Congress. She is smart, assertive, and eloquent. Kelliher is a middle aged Caucasian woman with no direct civil war, refugee camp, immigration or poverty experience, so I would say Omar has far more experience with global issues than Kelliher does, as this is obviously experience the largely white male Congress needs.

MN is already sending 4 other white women from this election. I find your comment offensive, dismissive and vaguely arrogant that people in Minneapolis voted for Omar to feel better about themselves. She is highly qualified with her own set of knowledge, skills and experience, and 78% of the vote in CD5 recognized her for it.

Keillor’s bravos for two white DFLers with little political experience — even compared to Omar — suggests there’s something more to this.

A longer view suggests Keillor was channeling his inner Phyllis Kahn. Omar defeated the long-time state representative from Minneapolis in 2016, a loss she’s appeared to brood about publicly ever since.

The campaign between the two turned personal after Kahn said in April 2016: “Ilhan is younger than me. She is prettier than me. She appears nicer than me. She agrees with anything that anyone says to her. So, it was tough competition.”

Keillor’s comments in many ways mirror Kahn’s August interview with the online news site “The Intercept” as the three-way race between Kelliher and six-term state rep Patricia Torres Ray wound down.

“You’re not going to have me speak without prejudice about Ilhan, but she didn’t really have the experience to be a competent legislator, and she certainly doesn’t have the experience to be a competent congressperson,” said Kahn, who backed Kelliher in the August primary. “She’s a very attractive candidate in many superficial ways.”

Kahn criticized Omar for using her immigrant status as a “selling point,” calling it “a sign of weakness.” She also said Omar was anti-Semitic.

Keillor’s comments also mirrored Kahn’s interview with Minnesota online news site Alpha News in June 2016.

“The young woman has done a very good job mobilizing students to get out to the caucuses and she’s also very attractive to the kind of, what we call the young, liberal, white guilt-trip people,” she said. Like Keillor in his Facebook post, Kahn didn’t use Omar’s name.

Kahn and Keillor are politically united and personally so, too. The former legislator has made no secret of her support for the former Prairie Home Companion host who, though retired from that gig, lost his homegrown luster when American Public Media severed ties with him over sexual harassment allegations.

Kahn offered no congratulations to her new representative in Congress after Tuesday’s election. Instead, on Wednesday, she took one more shot.

That’s Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar now.

Clarification (Nov. 10, 2018): This post has been updated to clarify the nature of the separation between Keillor and MPR.

  • Erik Petersen

    I made Keillor’s point tangentially here in a thread here the other day. He’s right.

    And, its fairly persuasive that yes, Omar married her brother for fraudulent purposes. I just cant imagine there not being a reckoning on that in the coming year.

  • crystals

    Oh my god, Garrison. Step away from the keyboard.

  • RBHolb

    “Garrison Keillor will you please go now!
    The time has come.
    The time has come.
    The time is now.
    Just go.
    Go.
    Go!”

    • Some advice for Garrison Keillor: In the immortal words of the Georgia Satellites:

      “Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.”

  • The Resistance

    GK seems determined to destroy whatever dignity he has left. Social media seems to speed up that process.

    I’ll use this post to also vent my irritation at the use of unhyphenated adjectives to describe new and first generation Americans.

    Ilhan Omar is a Somali-American or, if you prefer, American of Somali descent. Leaving out the ‘American’ is another way of denying immigrants’ American-ness. It grates on me.

    • Rob

      An American of Somali descent – yes. Drives me nuts when media who should know better refer to the WWII internment of American citizens of Japanese descent as “Japanese Americans.”

  • Jerry

    What a jackass.

    Note that he mentions Kelliher and not Torres-Ray, who was also quite qualified and running for the nomination.

    • Kassie

      If we look at “qualified” as having put time in and was currently in the position, Torres-Ray was clearly the most qualified. Also, if people were voting just to vote for an immigrant, Torres-Ray is also an immigrant.

      I voted for Torres-Ray for a lot of reason. She is amazing. But, if she wouldn’t have been on the ballot, I would have voted for Omar. She is just more in touch with her constituents, energizing and motivating than Anderson Keliher is, which are important qualifications in getting my vote.

      • >>I voted for Torres-Ray for a lot of reasons.<<

        Same, and when faced with either Omar or Zielinski, I chose Omar. It was a no-brainer for me.

        • Erik Petersen

          You have struck me as a bright, not willfully obtuse commenter here.

          How do you rationalize away Omar marrying her brother?

          • Rob

            Show us proof from a legitimate, fact-based media source that Omar married her brother. Fox and Powerline are not legitimate, fact-based media, so don’t cite to them.

        • Erik Petersen

          wont do it eh, wont be truthful

          • crystals

            Seriously, you seem a little obsessed with this. It might be time for you to step away from the keyboard for a little bit too.

      • crystals

        Hello, electoral twin!

  • Prairie Home Companion repeatedly included Islamophobic skits (one involving Somali cab drivers and another involving a Muslim and a dog come to mind). And who can forget “lackluster black Muslim”?

    Edit: I found one of the scripts:
    https://www.prairiehome.org/story/2014/11/15/script-guy-noir-november-15-2014.html

    • Jerry

      Garrison’s idea of multicultural representation was to include both Norwegian Lutherans and German Catholics.

      • Rob

        Yup. I always thought of PHC as The Whitebread Show.

  • Jeff

    A more charitable reading might be that there are young whipper snappers coming up the ranks and Democratic voters want new leadership. Some old timers are holding onto the past.

  • Rob

    With just a soupcon of bigotry to add flavor.

  • Mike

    As a resident of the 5th district, Omar is my new representative. I don’t know much about her, but will judge her only on her performance in office.

    Two observations:

    1) There’s a kernel of truth in what Keillor and Kahn are saying. There’s a kind of orientalism at work in liberal politics, whereby minorities of various kinds are fetishized and seen as purer or more noble.

    Such an acknowledgement isn’t to endorse either Keillor or Kahn more broadly, or take anything away from Omar. In fact, it’s rather pitiful that two of the most privileged white people in Minnesota can’t be a little more magnanimous, but that’s not such a surprise upon reflection.

    2) My main complaint about the district is that it’s the least competitive one in the state. I think we’d all be better off if every congressional district in the country was at least somewhat competitive, but political tribalism is very fashionable nowadays.

    • Erik Petersen

      pt 1, pp 1 by you is absolutely correct

    • Rob

      Gosh, is orientalism the same thing as seeking out and valuing competent people from diverse backgrounds? If so, I’m with ya.

      • Erik Petersen

        There’s no way one judges Omar as more competent than MAK, even if you think Omar is actually competent and experienced in some meaningful way.

        • crystals

          I reject this premise.

          I ask myself, as a baseline, is a candidate competent – can they do the job effectively? If so, then I will look at all remaining candidates HOLISTICALLY. Who are they as humans? What values will they bring to their office? What are their priorities? How well do I think they’ll represent the people of their district/city/state/etc.?

          And whomever I feel best about after asking myself THOSE questions? That’s who I vote for.

          • Rob

            This. Thank you!

        • Jeff

          There’s a lot to be said for charisma. Otherwise we’d all vote for technocrats.

      • Mike

        It’s really more of an inverted orientalism at work, if you take the original definition of the term from Edward Said.

    • Jeff

      2) I live in a reliably Republican district (currently Emmer). I haven’t had anyone who represents my views since 2003. I’m not counting on that changing anytime soon. At least it’s not Bachmann anymore, so that’s an improvement.

      • Rob

        Could be time to move. : )

        • Jeff

          I’m waiting for the Democrats to take power and send the Republicans to reeducation camps. Then we’ll see who has the last laugh.

          • Erik Petersen

            As a matter of ignorant trope, God I hate jokes about re-education camps. But good luck with that.

    • // There’s a kind of orientalism at work in liberal politics, whereby minorities of various kinds are fetishized and seen as purer or more noble.

      OK, I’ll bite.

      How do you KNOW that?

      • Mike

        Oh, good grief, Bob. How can you NOT know that?

        If a white male corporate accountant espousing nearly the same positions and opinions as Omar were to run for the DFL Party endorsement, it would be said more or less openly by party activists that his race and gender were a liability. That the district needed someone (in pc language) “more diverse”.

        Voting for or against someone based on demographic characteristics is bigoted, except when it isn’t.

        • Rob

          Members of the dominant culture cannot be the subjects of bigotry.

    • Kassie

      I find the 5th district to be very competitive, it just happens during the primary, not the general. We wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if it wasn’t competitive.

  • KTFoley

    Oh for crying out loud, GK. Sell the Summit Ave house already and go seek yourself some peace.

    • Kat S.

      I hear LA is good for that. They’d probably have that done in a week.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    I read the whole piece as some even handed jabbing. Pretty funny.

    • The Resistance

      Maybe less funny if you are a Somali-American.

      • Gordon near Two Harbors

        The piece would be unacceptable if it were a one-sided attack on a Somali-American. Keillor poked at a wide range of elected officials, left and right.

        • The Resistance

          But only singled out one for her race.

          Humor is subjective.

          • theoacme

            His humour there would have played well with apartheid South Africa.

  • ec99

    I grew up surrounded by Minnesota Nice. Learned all the implicit rules without being told. How to keep smiling in the face of the person in front of you, while you twisted the knife in his back. Took me years to rid myself of it.

    • Jeff

      Just made me look up the O’Jays.

      • ec99

        Great group. Preferred the Temptations. “Smiling faces..”

        • Jeff

          Get onboard the Love Train.

  • Erik Petersen

    I don’t actually expect that most Democrats are in real delusion about Omar marrying her brother for purposes of either immigration or student loan fraud.

    Its a fairly significant fraud, and I’d like to know why its not disqualifying. Serious question. And the answer is I suppose, Dem / GOP oppositional dynamics, and the relative immorality of one party vs the other, but I think its worth being explained.

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      I know nothing about the person in question, but if the allegations you speak of are true, then deportation is in order.

      • Jerry

        You would think ICE would have done something about it, but you know they are a bunch of rabid liberals.

    • crystals

      The reason why it isn’t an issue is because there isn’t a single reputable news source that has found evidence it’s true.

    • KTFoley

      If memory serves, this question got a pretty thorough airing during her first election to the MN legislature. Any particular reason why it’s being brought up again, with the same misstatements, as though it hadn’t been asked & answered?

      https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2016/08/ilhan-omar-marriage-and-somali-culture-faq/

      • Erik Petersen

        Its never been debunked. Its merely been denied without explanation.

        The righty press continues to report and do data collection on this, and its persuasive. Yeah, I know its the righty press… but the quality of the reporting on this is solid. You just choose not to believe it.

        Star Tribune of course, wont weigh in…

        • The Resistance

          I also deny that my spouse is my brother. But I have not been able to debunk it. I merely deny it without explanation.

          Watch for more juicy details on Fox and Powerline soon!

      • Erik Petersen
        • The Resistance

          Ah, the link.

          The internet’s answer to British Parliamentary Style Debate.

          • Erik Petersen

            Well, you have a Minnpost article that asserts theres no evidence, and another article that shows evidence….

          • The Resistance

            The phrase in your otherwise rock solid evidence that sticks in my throat like a chicken bone is, “appears to be.”

          • Erik Petersen

            Yes, it uses that journalistic phraseology because its an article and not a court of law. It goes on to provide evidence that backs up the argument.

            The guy is her brother. I’m glad you read it.

          • The Resistance

            Perhaps it would be easier if we just asked ALL brown people to supply birth certificates before running for office.

            That way we could skip the innuendo and racist-adjacent phase of political discourse.

          • Jack

            But how would we know that the certificate is legit? Reference the Obama birth certificate debacle.

            I believe he was born in Hawaii but the birthers don’t.

          • The Resistance

            Based on the irrefutable evidence you provided from a Facebook screen shot and an old Arlington High School yearbook you have won this debate and I stand before the entire Newscut community freely admitting my Not-So-Bright Willful Obtuseness. Peace.

          • theoacme

            Arlington High = “fake schools” (I’ll believe a yearbook from Watertown (MA) High School)…

          • Go Raiders!

  • ec99

    Minnesota Nice: Ole and Lena at a restaurant, getting awful service. They smile all the time, leave a big tip, and grouse about it to each other for 6 months.

    On a more personal level: My mother at a church pot luck. Compliments another woman on her hot dish. Then complains all the way home on how it was too salty.

  • crystals

    MORE MIKE MILLIGAN CLIPS PLEASE.

  • Jerry

    You ever notice that lack of political experience only seems to be an issue when the candidate is a woman?

    • crystals

      I regret I have but one upvote to give.

      • The Resistance

        I gave you one of mine 😉

    • Matt Paulson

      Wasn’t the lack of experience one of the biggest critiques levied against Obama before his first term though?

      • Rob

        If he’d of been a white dude, it’s unlikely that much would have been made of his lack of experience.

        • JonasGrumby

          I doubt a white dude will ever hold that seat again.

          • Jerry

            Just like the mayor, right?

      • Jerry

        It’s almost as if it is used as a form of gatekeeping to keep women and minorities out of office.

  • Mike

    So you’re saying that it’s bad that African Americans voted for Obama to some extent because he was black? That’s sure what it sounds like you’re saying.

  • Mike

    I’m no fan of Kahn’s. She was the embodiment of the “entitlement mentality” that politicians get when they’ve been in office too long.

  • Mike

    Would you say the same for Mitch McConnell?

  • Erik Petersen

    Its not at all unfounded. You choose to be willfully obtuse.

    The guy is persuasively observed to be a sibling. She married him in the middle of her ‘real’ marriage, during which time she was never observed away from her ‘real’ family.

    • // persuasively observed

      What does that even mean?

      • Erik Petersen

        It’s a matter of what the documents that are available can say concretely, such that they don’t say “Ilhan and this man are siblings”. Even though they do seem to show they have the same father and grew up in the same household.

        So can you persuasively observe they are siblings at that point? The Omar camp says you cant.

  • Skipper50

    Deep thoughts.

  • Erik Petersen

    There’s a wealth of credibly written articles in the somewhat righty press that are persuasuive to this point. They show public docs of a marriage to her brother.

      • Erik Petersen

        For sure. And I’m aware that there’s a point at which that can be disqualifying.

        Have you read the articles?

        We went round and round on this locally when it came up in 2016, and Lambert at Minnpost argued that if the work is good (talking about Powerline), you have to take it seriously.

        Do you take the work seriously? Because the docs are fairly persuasive, and its not been denied in a properly detailed way.

        • I would say my BS-O-meter is pretty well pinned on the question.

          I don’t take the source seriously based on the past work of PJ Media. I don’t trust the documents to be legitimate and untouched. I don’t believe the news organizations engage in critical presentation of information.

          I do understand that people will accept it as persuasive anyway, however, and consider it fact absent a DNA test.

          I see these same “persuasive” reporters referring to her as a felon and I have found that there’s actually a way to be a felon — be convicted of a felony.

          That hasn’t happened. If they’re getting that wrong, my BS-O-Meter tells me, which rarely has failed me, they’re probably getting other stuff wrong, too.

          There is a legal mechanism for this and when it proves these things you’ve accepted and are now stating as fact, I’ll be more impressed.

          Until then, probably not.

          • Erik Petersen

            You must not think Donald Trump is a shady tax dodger then eh, because hes never been convicted

          • There has been some excellent reporting on his methods of avoiding taxes that I will pay more attention to because they come from reputable reporters in a legitimate news organization .

            The New York Tax Department is investigating so I presume they see something worth investigating. We’ll see.

          • Erik Petersen

            But…. the NYT is biased

          • The New York Times has a history of thorough investigative work in the best tradition of journalism and has it proven time and time and time again. David Barstow’s account was compelling and thorough and well researched and leads to a better informed society because it passed through the standards that have been proven.

            Having said all that, I’ll save you the trouble by screaming on your behalf , “but Jason Blair!”

            You do you, internet.

  • Erik Petersen

    True perhaps. How is that point germane here?

  • Grace

    LMAO stop giving Garrison a platform wyd mpr

  • Kassie

    In what way was she effective? Almost nothing she proposed passed. She was considered a nut. Omar is not.

  • Rob

    I always find myself wishing that pols who have been in their elected positions for fifteen or twenty years would step aside volitionally. Public offices were never intended to be de facto sinecures.

  • Sportinlife10

    Bravo and Brava, GK and Phyllis Kahn, both of whom refuse to join the parade.

  • Blasko

    I have a loving soft spot for the “old guard” of the DFL, but I’ve noticed that they often have a hard time passing the baton. Sure, Omar might need guidance. Offer what you can, Kahn and Keillor. And try to remember that the causes that unite us are bigger than the petty little perceptions of personality stuff.