Smith vs. Holder

SMITH VS. HOLDER…. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, and endured some pretty tiresome lines of inquiry. If Republican rhetoric over the last 24 hours is any indication, one exchange in particular stood out.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas argued that recent attempts at terrorism were launched by those who espouse “radical Islam,” and wanted to know if Holder agreed. The AG seemed reluctant to assign blame for terrorism on one faith tradition, and tried patiently to explain that it’s best not to lump all of these incidents together, using religion as a common thread.

After a while, Holder conceded that “radical version of Islam” could have been a motivating factor for Shahzad and others.

This seems to have generated quite a bit of excitement on the right. Liz Cheney’s attack group is pushing the video, as is Fox News and assorted websites. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the buffoonish ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Holder “doesn’t deserve” to keep his job as a result of his answer to Smith.

It’s probably too late to try Grown-Up Talk with Smith, King, and their allies, but it’s also probably worth noting how foolish their criticism is. They’re desperate to view terrorist threats through a purely religious lens, in all likelihood because many of them are anti-Muslim. But after John Patrick Bedell opened fire at the Pentagon, Joe Stack flew an airplane into a building, James von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust memorial museum, and the Hutaree Militia terrorist plot was uncovered — all incidents from the last year and none relating to Islam — the crusade to connect all terrorism to Muslims seems lazy and wrong.

But in particular, the interest in the Smith/Holder exchange is a reminder that for much of the right, rhetoric is more important than substance. The Obama administration has captured terrorists, prevented attacks, and struck at terrorists around the world, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as how they choose to describe the threat.

For the simple-minded, those who incorporate the word “Islam” are to be trusted; those who don’t are not.

Steve M. concluded, “This is how right-wingers think you fight terrorism: by saying certain words that make right-wingers feel good as often as possible.”