Rand Paul

Rand Paul Takes an Unpleasant Cue from Trump, Offers Rep. Ilhan Omar Flight to Somalia

The Republican senator has increasingly aligned himself with President Trump.


Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) took a cue from President Donald Trump on Saturday, telling Breitbart News that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.)—who has been critical of American foreign and domestic policy since being elected to the House in 2018—should visit her birth country of Somalia in order to learn a thing or two.

"While I'm not saying we forcibly send her anywhere, I'm willing to contribute to buy her a ticket to go visit Somalia," Paul said. "I think she can look and maybe learn a little bit about the disaster that is Somalia—that has no capitalism, has no God-given rights guaranteed in a Constitution, and has about seven different tribes that have been fighting each other for the last 40 years. And then maybe after she's visited Somalia for a while, she might come back and appreciate America more."

Paul's comments are a sanitized version of remarks recently made by President Trump, in which he insinuated that the "Squad"—made up of Reps. Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–NY), Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.)—should go back whence they came.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," he mused in a subsequent tweet. Except, every congresswoman in that bunch, with the exception of Omar, was born in the U.S.

The insinuation that the "Squad" should abstain from criticizing America simply because they have foreign ancestry drew criticism from across the political spectrum. Which makes sense: Go far enough back, and all of us are descended from people who were born outside the U.S. Yet we never hear modern presidents or members of Congress tell their political opponents that they should "go back" to Ireland, Italy, Poland, or Germany.

You'd think Paul, himself a longtime critic of American domestic policy on matters both economic and social, would know better than to boost a xenophobic line of attack. But the formerly libertarian-leaning senator has increasingly cozied up to Trump.

Born in Somalia, Omar immigrated to the U.S. at age 12. She is now 37. Her criticism of American capitalism does not make her less of a patriot, it just makes her wrong. The "love it or leave it" argument deployed by Trump, and now Paul, is a cheap tactic for marginalizing people who say things we don't like. While Trump appears unshameable, Paul should remember what it's like to have his patriotism questioned over policy: When he was running for Senate in 2010, the Kentucky Senate passed a resolution declaring him "outside the mainstream of American values" over his critique of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In that sense, Paul and Omar have a bit in common. Both are students and critics of American power. "She was almost like a cliché of a civic-minded new American," Larry Jacobs, one of Omar's professors at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times in December. "She would quote the Declaration of Independence, he said, asking, 'Why have we come up short?'"

Omar, of course, is not above firing off incendiary tweets and making her own boneheaded comments. On Monday, for instance, she retweeted a message expressing support for Paul's assaulter, who was sentenced to 30 days in prison after attacking him at his Kentucky home.

Endorsing physical assault over a difference of opinion is its own brand of crass. Yell at Omar for that. But don't forget to yell at Paul, who knows where the moral high ground is, and once upon a time, sought to stand on it.