Sanders praises Omar as ‘extraordinary’ as he teams up with ‘the Squad’ member in N.H.

  • Bernie Sanders was accompanied on the campaign trail Friday by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at a rally at Southern New Hampshire University. By Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 12/13/2019 5:53:24 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders returned Friday to the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House – and he brought along a controversial guest. 

The Democratic presidential candidate and populist senator from Vermont was accompanied by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – a high profile and progressive firebrand member of Congress. While state Republicans criticized Omar for past remarks she’s made about Israel, there were no outward protests against her at her first stop with Sanders – at a rally at Southern New Hampshire University.

After Omar introduced Sanders at the campaign event – the two-time White House hopeful called her “one of the most extraordinary people in American politics.”

It was Omar’s first time on the campaign trail with Sanders since she formally endorsed his second straight Democratic presidential nomination bid at a rally in Minneapolis last month.

In introducing Sanders, the congresswoman highlighted how she and Sanders have been labeled by the media and many political pundits as radicals.

“If believing that 500,000 Americans should not be forced into medical bankruptcy every single year is radical, than we’re proud to be radical,” Omar said as she continued to list a number of examples of why “we should all be proud to be radicals.”

Omar’s a member of a group of first-term female progressive House members of color who are collectively known as “the Squad.” In addition to Omar, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have also endorsed Sanders.

The fourth member of the group – Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – has endorsed Sanders populist rival for the nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Pressley ironically was set to speak later Friday at the same event where Sanders and Omar were also addressing the audience – an awards and fundraising gala for the New Hampshire Young Democrats.

Omar has repeatedly created controversy during her brief tenure in Congress – courtesy of comments about Israel and Jewish Americans that many Republicans and some Democrats considered anti-Semitic. Her comments – as well as others from the left of the party, have created tensions and divisions among Democrats regarding U.S. policy towards Israel.

New Hampshire Young Democrats said in a statement that they were “honored” that Omar would be a featured speaker at their event. In their statement, they described her as a “fierce legislator, sharp speaker and tireless advocate for change at the grassroots level.”

Asked about Omar’s appearance alongside Sanders at the event, Fred Voelker of Franklin said “it’s not an issue. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”

Republicans, on the other hand, tried to capitalize.

On Thursday, the state GOP issued a statement from a Republican state representative criticizing Democrats.

"New Hampshire Democrats have really gone too far," state Rep. Judy Aron wrote. "By bringing noted anti-Semite and opponent of Israel Rep. Ilhan Omar to New Hampshire, Democrats are showing how anti-Israel the modern Democrat base is.”

There were no demonstrations or protests against Omar inside or outside the Southern New Hampshire University event.

Sanders kept mostly to his standard stump speech at his first event of the day and didn’t take questions from the audience – or reporters. But he did take aim at President Donald Trump over the issue of climate change and specifically at the Republican president’s criticism on Thursday of Greta Thunberg, the teen climate change activist who was named Time’s Person of the Year.

Trump – who was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2016 and was on the shortlist for this year’s honors – took to Twitter to mock the Swedish teenager after she beat him out for Time’s honors.

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Trump tweeted.

Thunberg - who has Asperger's syndrome - has spoken publicly about the social challenges it creates.

Targeting Trump, Sanders said “on this issue what he is doing by claiming that climate change is a hoax, by actually attacking Greta Thunberg, what he is doing is not only endangering our country, but the entire world.”

The mention of Trump’s jab at Thunberg brought elicited boos from the crowd.

Voelker – who backed eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary, told the Monitor that his support is now behind Sanders. 

“I just agree with him on just about everything he wants to do and I think he might do it if he gets in,” he said. 

Julie Hromis – a SNHU senior from Chichester – is still undecided.

“I’m still figuring all that out and trying to go to all these candidate events,” she said.

But Hromis added that Sanders is currently in her top five favorite list when it comes to the still large field of Democratic presidential contenders.

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