Omar Trashes Obama: 'Hope and Change' Was a Mirage, He 'Had Really Bad Policies'

Rep. Ilhan Omar
Rep. Ilhan Omar / Getty Images
March 8, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) trashed former President Barack Obama in a new profile of the freshman lawmaker, saying the "hope and change" he offered was a mirage and he was one of many predecessors to President Donald Trump to have "really bad policies."

Omar was the subject of a Politico story on her and fellow Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (D., Minn.), who represents a neighboring district. The two are framed as symbolizing the colliding forces in the new Democratic House majority, with Omar representing the far-left flank and Phillips the more center-left sensibilities that helped recapture suburban districts from Republicans in 2018.

Omar, a Somali-born refugee, was fed up with the Democratic establishment by the time she ran for office in 2016 for a seat in the Minnesota state house. She won and then easily captured a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, and she wasn't shy about telling Politico her objections to Obama-era policies, like detention centers for illegal immigrant children and the "droning of countries around the world:"

As she saw it, the party ostensibly committed to progressive values had become complicit in perpetuating the status quo. Omar says the "hope and change" offered by Barack Obama was a mirage. Recalling the "caging of kids" at the U.S.-Mexico border and the "droning of countries around the world" on Obama’s watch, she argues that the Democratic president operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor.

Without naming Obama specifically, Omar said no one should get away with malfeasance in office if they had "the pretty face and the smile."

"We can’t be only upset with Trump … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was," Omar said. "And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile."

Omar's specific invocation of the "hope and change" motto of Obama was striking, given she tweeted during his farewell address in 2017: "Thank you Obama for being a source of inspiration, hope and change. I have always been proud to call you my president!"

Omar is at the center of her second anti-Semitic controversy in as many months as a sitting member of Congress. After being forced to apologize last month for saying pro-Israel politicians are paid off by the lobbying group AIPAC and saying it was "all about the Benjamins," she said last week she wanted to "talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country."

The latter remarks set off an uproar within the Democratic caucus, with some members condemning her anti-Semitic tropes and others saying she was being unfairly singled out. Democrats ultimately voted on a resolution that started off condemning anti-Semitism and was ultimately amended to include opposition to all forms of hate, without mentioning Omar.

One of the prominent liberal critics of Omar's "all about the Benjamins" flap last month was former Obama Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who said she had made "outrageous" comments and should be condemned by all Democrats.