Thursday, April 23, 2009

Advice to the Dumb at Heart

Look, Congressional GOP, I get that you're in the minority, that you've got no new ideas, and that this (via John Cole) is just playing to your base …

House Republicans are calling on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to step down or be fired in the wake of a controversial department memo that has sparked indignant battle cries from conservatives and some veterans.

“Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," said Texas Rep. John Carter, a member of the party's elected leadership who has organized an hour of floor speeches Wednesday night to call for Napolitano's ouster. “The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime.”

... but seriously:  Get.  A.  Grip.

Let's review a few facts.

To begin with, the "memo," or DHS report titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, was ordered by the Bush Administration. Believe it or not, this was even revealed on Fox News.

Second, as noted by Think Progress, similar reports were ordered by the Bush Administration, and delivered, regarding potential threats from left-wing extremists; e.g., the April 2001 DOE Report, Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat (PDF) and the January 2009 DHS report, Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade (PDF).

Third, the report, in fact, does not "single out" political opponents. It merely describes the types to look for. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember a great hue and cry from the righthand side of the aisle when profiling airline travelers was all the rage. Or surveillance and infiltration was done on, say, animal-rights groups, supposed "eco-terrorists," and those who protested at the 2004 and 2008 Republican conventions.

As Secretary Napolitano said, on Fox News, no less:

"This was an assessment, not an accusation," Napolitano continued. "It was limited to extremists those who seek to commit violence within the United States. And all this was meant to do was to give law enforcement what we call 'situational awareness.'"

A couple of examples. The report does not say to watch all veterans. Here is what it says about veterans:

DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.

And for all the hysteria about the supposed surveillance or oppression or whatever of special interest conservative groups, there is one (1) mention in the report of the words "single issue." In a footnote. To wit:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Have any of you Congressional blowhards actually read this report (PDF)? You should. It's only ten pages long. Including the cover.

And since you're politicians, remember this if you remember nothing else: your base is about one-quarter of the electorate, if that, and the more you go on catering to them, the smaller that group will become. Seen this headline lately?

GOP approval rating at its lowest in 25 years

The time for appealing to the worst part of people's natures is over. Fear of The Other and endless exhortations to don the victim cloak just won't get you back in the game. How bad has it gotten? Let's put it this way: if you've exhausted the patience of the planet's most determined centrist, you've really gone off the rails. Via Instaputz, here's what Mark Ambinder is saying about you, after he finishes apologizing for swiping his lede from a "liberal website," no less:

My Republican friends keep asking me when I'll take the GOP seriously again and why I've stopped writing about ticky-tak political gamesmanship and GOP consultant tricks. When they're a serious party with serious ideas, then we can talk.

He's too polite, so I'll tell it to you straight:  Grow the fuck up.

[Added] Follow-up.

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