For Whom Mr. Bell Tolls // One squad member’s woes are just part of the picture

It would be premature to eulogize the influence of the “Squad,” the cohort of Congressional “progressives” (scare quotes because progress is in the eyes of the beholder).

But there are signs of the group’s declining vitality. Prime among them is the evident vulnerability of “Squad” member Cori Bush of Missouri, who is seeking a third term in Congress.

While the Missouri Democratic primary election isn’t until August 6, Ms. Bush is trailing a good distance behind her primary opponent, Wesley Bell.

She is also facing a Department of Justice investigation for allegedly making improper payments of federal and campaign funds to hire a personal security detail. A detail that included a man she later married.

Ms. Bush is known for championing the “Defund the Police” cause and accusing the Israeli military of “war crimes.” Back in October, she voted, along with other Squaders, against a House resolution affirming the US’ “commitment to Israel’s security, including through security assistance” and calling on all countries to “unequivocally condemn Hamas’ brutal war.”

More recently, she, along with only Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, voted against a measure banning Hamas terrorists involved in October’s savage attack on Israel from entering the US.

Mr. Bell, her opponent, also wears a “progressive” label and has long championed the rights and rehabilitation of nonviolent prisoners. But when it comes to Israel, he parts company with other embracers of the identification.

Responding to a challenge to that dissent, he said: “It is offensive to me that you would say that Israel defending itself is genocide. Genocide is intentionally trying to wipe out a people. And no reasonable person would say that is Israel’s intention… Israel was attacked by a terrorist organization, who in their charter, says that the destruction of Israel is their goal. They stated after this attack that they were going to do it again and again.”

A Remington Research survey earlier this month found Mr. Bell leading Ms. Bush by 22 percentage points.

Ms. Bush’s isn’t the only Squadite seat in jeopardy. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania are also facing competitive primaries.

Mr. Bowman famously pulled a Capitol fire alarm when there was no emergency. He claimed he did so mistakenly, but he was accused of purposely using the alarm to delay a vote on a spending bill.

He was also forced to express “regret” for having posted online, when he was a middle school principal in 2011, a long conspiracy theory-laden poem about the 9/11 attacks. A recurrent refrain in the 137-line offering is “hmm.”  (The greater offense was that the poem was truly awful.)

Mr. Bowman has also expressed hostility toward Israel. He appeared alongside anti-Israel academic Norman Finkelstein at the Andalusia Islamic Center in Yonkers last month and thanked him and other speakers at the event for “delivering the truth.”

“I watch them all the time on YouTube,” he told the crowd, and railed against “powerful lobbies” for using “scare tactics” to silence critics of Israel. He later said he had been unaware of the degree of Mr. Finkelstein’s animosity toward Israel and claimed that he had distanced himself from the academic’s rhetoric at the event itself. The website Jewish Insider, however, reviewed a recording of the entire event and found no such distancing.

Even J Street has withdrawn its former support of Mr. Bowman. ‘Nuff said.

Mr. Bowman is facing a formidable opponent in his upcoming primary in June, popular Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Ms. Lee, for her part, has been criticized by her opponent, Bhavini Patel, for accepting contributions from officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the group’s president famously said he was “happy to see” the October attack on Israel. The Pennsylvania primary is in April.

Adding to the downslide of the left-of-center chunk of Congress, New York Congressman Ritchie Torres recently left the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), reportedly because of its antipathy toward Israel. Earlier, Representative Lois Frankel of Florida also left the CPC.

Death-knells aren’t  quite tolling for the stalwarts of the “Squad” or for other critics of Israel in Congress. But there does seem to be some room for hope, at least for the glass-half-fullniks among us—hope that a toxic tide in the federal legislature may be turning.

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