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Virginia Notebook: The Omeish Blunder

Steve Fehr

It hasn't been an easy week for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

With the Nov..6 election a month away, Democrats had been feeling increasingly confident they could make big gains in the General Assembly. But their momentum might be stopped by the Kaine administration's blunder involving the appointment of Esam S. Omeish to the Virginia Commission on Immigration.

Republicans are seizing on the Omeish fiasco, using it to energize the party's conservative base. But in trying to score political points, have Republicans once again proven they're out of touch with increasingly diverse Northern Virginia?

A week ago today, Kaine was forced to ask for Omeish's resignation after videos surfaced on which Omeish was seen making controversial comments about Israel and its interaction with its Middle East neighbors, including expressing his support seven years ago for the "jihad way."

Backed by religious leaders from various faiths and by antiwar activists, Omeish says he is the victim of a smear campaign. Many Democrats agree with Kaine that Omeish's history of making inflammatory statements should have disqualified him from serving on a state panel.

Although Kaine moved swiftly to remove Omeish from the 20-member commission, Virginia Republicans are optimistic that the controversy will help them in the November election.

This gives the Republican Party a trifecta of issues -- illegal immigration, quotas and what they perceive as Muslim extremism -- to rally its base, which has been depressed after losing three statewide elections in five years.
By acknowledging that Omeish was selected in part because he is Muslim, Kaine appears to have adopted a quota system for the immigration panel. Kaine said he will replace Omeish with another Muslim because he wants the panel to be diverse.

With Virginia's checkered history of race relations, "quota" doesn't go over well in parts of the state. Although former Republican governors George Allen and James S. Gilmore III named hundreds of minorities to state positions, they went out of their way to stress that they didn't support quotas.

Republicans have also sought to link Omeish to Muslim extremism, which he and his supporters have denied. As President Bush demonstrated during his 2004 reelection campaign, the specter of another terrorist attack remains an election issue.

A day after Omeish resigned, the office of House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) released a statement from Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) titled "Kaine Appointee on Board of Directors of Radical 9-11 Mosque." Gilbert was referring to the fact that Omeish is a leader at Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, the largest mosque in Virginia and one of the biggest in the country.

Gilbert alleged that the center was "radical" because two of the Sept..11 hijackers had attended the mosque in the months preceding their attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Gilbert also referred to several unsubstantiated allegations about the mosque that appeared in conservative publications and on Web sites, including WorldNetDaily.com. (Yes, Gilbert must consider WorldNetDaily to be a credible source.)

"Even a cursory Internet search about the appointee in question would have also easily identified him as a leader of a potentially radical Northern Virginia mosque," Gilbert said.

Gilbert didn't mention the fact that the FBI and the Sept. 11 commission, which spent two years investigating the attacks, found no evidence that the mosque's leadership had any role in the terrorist attacks.
It should be noted that the Sept..11 hijackers also had gym memberships, ate at restaurants and rented apartments. Are the owners of those establishments "radical" just because they might have had contact with the hijackers?

Howell's office and Gilbert should have just sat back and let Kaine stew in his own political mess. Instead, less than 24 hours after Omeish resigned, they insulted thousands of Northern Virginia Muslims who worship at Dar.
But it's an election year. And unfortunately for Democrats, they are fighting largely on Republicans' turf. Many of the competitive House and Senate races are being waged in districts where the Omeish controversy will be tempting fodder for Republicans.

Kaine will be hard-pressed to explain his initial decision to appoint Omeish to the immigration panel. Republicans can also raise legitimate concerns about the administration's process for vetting appointees.
But Republicans need to be careful about what they are criticizing. Is the issue Omeish's past statements or his faith? In Gilbert's news release, that distinction is muddied, at best.

By Steve Fehr  |  October 4, 2007; 1:01 AM ET
Categories:  Immigration , Tim Craig , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Comments

Republicans out of touch? Only the most rabid of partisan hackers would suggest that complaints of appointing a person connected with a known terrorist entity and who has publicaly advocated the overthrow of our system of government - as well as the destruction and genocide of a sovereign country.

Its not those who complained about this insane appointment who are out of touch - it is the questionable motives of Kaine's advisers who put this person up for nomination who are out of touch.

It is Kaine who needs a great big cup of wake up and pay attention.

Posted by: George | October 4, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Indeed. Funny how the Omeish appointment is portrayed more as a careless blunder, while the Republican reaction is portrayed as flirting with out-of-touchism. Who's really out of touch here?

Posted by: vajent | October 4, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I guess the FBI must be "rabid partisan hackers" then, though the original poster confused the term "hack" and "hacker." No matter, they seem to be wildly confused on a lot of issues.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

What was the substantiation that the mosque was a "known terrorist entity"? I don't see that in the report.

Posted by: sj | October 4, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Craig: Indeed Todd Gilbert cited WorldNetDaily among other sources. He cited specifically one article written by veteran investigative reporter Paul Sperry. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33829

Are you suggesting in your backhanded reference to WorldNetDaily that the facts of this article are in any way suspect or disputed by anyone?

The article was published in 2003, and I can assure you there have been no demands for retraction or efforts at clarifications by anyone.

Or is your reference to WorldNetDaily purely pejorative -- insinuating that NOTHING is to be believed at WorldNetDaily?

If that's the case, I'd like you to consider why you feel that way. I've done everything an individual can do in the news business over 30 years -- including running major metro daily newspapers. While you are commenting on local Virginia politics. I suspect when you were wetting your pants, and I'm only assuming you've stopped, that I was teaching journalism at UCLA and other major universities.

Do you think I have forgotten how to do good journalism since I moved over the Internet 10 years ago?

Do you think you have more credibility with anyone outside your immediate family than does Paul Sperry, one of the finest investigative reporters this nation has ever produced?

Wipe that smarmy smike off your face, you arrogant little creampuff.

Your attempts at ad hominem attacks are transparent enough, apparently, for everyone except your own sleeping editors -- if you still have such a job title at the Washington Compost.

Joseph Farah
Editor and founder
WorldNetDaily

Posted by: Joseph Farah | October 4, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

typical left wing bias from the post

Posted by: yawn | October 4, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed how Farrah thinks that an online newspaper compares to a bricks and mortar newspaper. Its all about revenue buddy and I don't think the WorldNetToilet is really raking it in, unless "it" is a bunch of bigots and neo-cons.
Type away at your virtual desk (prob your bathtub) in your virtual office (bathroom) as your career winds down into the internet oblivion.

Posted by: Reader Breeder | October 4, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised how virginia GOP keep coming back for more @sskicking after they lost the governorship, both senatorial seats, and now on the verge of losing the congressional seat in NOVA. There are over 200K muslims living in NOVA, and no idiot who insults them is going to get elected in future elections. Please VA republicans keep following your path, because I can't wait for VA to become a full fledged blue state soon.

Posted by: Joe | October 4, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Farah,

Isn't amazing how frightened the lefties are of independent websites like Worldnetdaily.com. It is clear that the left still thinks they can force-feed their pablum down our throats with impunity.

Posted by: Fred | October 4, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how the Muslim community in NOVA feels about the sex education that their children are receiving in public schools mainly at the behest of Democrats?

Posted by: Mia | October 4, 2007 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, Joseph Farrah, publisher of anti-catholic bigotry. When I asked him about this, he growled watch out, you've been warned.

Posted by: Ted | October 4, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are vile filthy lying pigs that would much rather appoint transparent muslim guinea pigs for their own greedy needs than admit the truth of what destruction they have ravaged this nation with!

Posted by: joseph | October 5, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Dear Readers ..

We tend to focus on the minor issues and ignore the real ones. Dr. Omeish was objecting to an illegal occupation that is illegal by all means and according to international laws, when he spoke at a rally long time ago ...

Why don't we focus on the real issue of the suffering of the Palestinian people and how our government is not paying attention to that? Do we want to eliminate terrorism or encourage it. The USA foreign policy is just doing the opposite .. encouraging terrorism around the world.

I advice all of the readers who are reading my comments to visit this website http://www.occupation101.com and check out this important educational film about the Israeli occupation that is the root of problems in the Middle East.

The other important issue is the fact that the Israeli lobby in the US is targeting Muslims in public life. They believe that a stronger Muslim presence in American politics means a chance for change in USA's position towards the illegal occupation of Israel to the Palestinian lands.

Dr. Omeish is a victim of that lobby. We are not going to enjoy lasting peace or truly defeat terrorism until we rid ourselves of the real enemies of peace among us !

Posted by: Mohamed | October 6, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't want anyone who advocated the "jihad way," as Dr.[sic.] Omeish did (you can find it one youtube if you don't believe me), working anywhere near a hospital, school, or elsewhere not behind bars.

It is people like him, who advocate on behalf of Islamofascists, that are the real enemies among us.

Mohamed, Israel belongs to the Jews.

Get over it and tell your people to move on.

Posted by: Real American | October 7, 2007 1:24 AM | Report abuse

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