Style over substance

STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE…. Rep. Pete King (R) of New York, who’s been out in front lately criticizing the Obama administration on national security for odd and incoherent reasons, appeared on “Good Morning America” this morning. He offered a terrific example of why Republicans aren’t taken more seriously when it comes to the substance of public policy.

“You are saying someone should be held accountable. Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this,” host George Stephanopoulos said to King.

“I think one main thing would be to — just himself to use the word terrorism more often,” said King, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

In fairness, King went on to note a couple of vaguely substantive suggestions, but his first instinct, when asked for ideas to implement, was to emphasize rhetoric. It was, to use King’s words, the “one main thing.”

There are two relevant angles to keep in mind here. The first is that Republicans’ obsession with the Commander in Chief’s word choice is not only misguided, it’s completely wrong. As Matt Corley noted this morning, leading GOP officials keep insisting that America would be safer if President Obama used the words “war” and “terror” more frequently. But the president is already using these words all the time.

One gets the sense Republicans won’t be truly satisfied until Obama develops a tic-like affinity for Bush-era rhetoric. Maybe, if the president manages to squeeze in “9/11” into random sentences, Giuliani-style, his far-right critics will find something new to whine about.

The second is, for all the talk about the GOP “owning” national security as an issue, their understanding is, at best, superficial. No serious person can make the case that references to “terrorism” have any impact whatsoever on the threat of global terrorism. It’s just silly.

Imagine, just for a moment, what our discourse could be like if there were grown-ups in the Republican congressional caucuses. A guy can dream, can’t he?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.