QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee today how much he loves the idea of racial and ethnic profiling.

“I’m, for one — I know it’s not politically correct to say it — I believe in racial and ethnic profiling. I think if you’re looking at people getting on an airplane and you have X amount of resources to get into it, you get at the targets, and not my wife. And I just think it’s something that should be looked into. The statement that’s made, it’s probably 90 percent true with some exceptions like the Murrah federal office building in my state, Oklahoma. Those people, they were not Muslims, they were not Middle Easterners.

“But when you hear that not all Middle Easterners or Muslims between the age of 20 and 35 are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the age of 20 and 35, that’s by and large true. And I think that sometime we’re going to have to — at least, I’m going to have to have a better answer than I give the people back home, when people board planes or get into environments such as the environment we’re dealing with with this report.”

Oddly enough, just two weeks ago, former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff offered a pretty compelling explanation of why the right-wing push on this is misguided. Chertoff, not exactly an ACLU member, said “relying on preconceptions or stereotypes is actually kind of misleading and arguably dangerous,” in part because terrorist networks deliberately recruit those “who don’t fit the stereotype.”

I realize that for many conservatives, reactionary racism seems easier than thinking. Some young, Middle-Eastern men tried to commit acts of terror, so let’s consider all Middle-Eastern men to be suspected terrorists. You know, just in case.

Putting aside the fact that such an approach doesn’t actually keep us safer, and putting aside the fact that such an approach is fundamentally at odds with our principles and who we are as a people, I wonder if Inhofe is capable of thinking about U.S. policy in the global sense.

There are 300 million Americans, with hundreds of millions of allies, while al Qaeda membership is in the thousands. Who benefits if the U.S. government decides to start treating Muslims and Middle-Eastern young people like second-class citizens? What does it signal to the world about the American character when we deliberately target groups of people on the basis of narrow-minded, right-wing intolerance?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.