ENERGIZING MORE THAN JUST THE GOP BASE…. For nearly eight years, the right had a simple mantra when it came to defending the Bush/Cheney White House against criticism from the left: liberals were emboldening terrorists. If there was another large-scale attack, it’d be our fault.

It’s hard to overstate how common this was. The left was constantly reminded that al Qaeda had access to modern communications, and could monitor American media. If Democrats, liberals, and other Bush detractors made us appear divided in a time of crisis, and sent a signal to the world that the Commander in Chief lacked Americans’ support, we’d look weak and invite terrorism. Progressives in America, the argument went, were — deliberately or not — helping our enemies.

In the summer of 2010, it’s interesting to see just how much has changed.

Islamic radicals are seizing on protests against a planned Islamic community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero and anti-Muslim rhetoric elsewhere as a propaganda opportunity and are stepping up anti-U.S. chatter and threats on their websites.

One jihadist site vowed to conduct suicide bombings in Florida to avenge a threatened Koran burning, while others predicted an increase in terrorist recruits as a result of such actions. […]

A U.S. official on Sunday said the administration was taking the upswing in anti-U.S. chatter seriously. “Terrorists like al-Qaeda and its violent allies are motivated already to try to attack the United States, but when it comes to propaganda, extremists are pure opportunists. They’ll use whatever they can,” the official said.

And the right is giving them all kinds of fodder to work with, isn’t it?

“We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup,” with the Islamic-center controversy, said Evan Kohlmann, an independent terrorism consultant at Flashpoint Partners who monitors jihadist websites.

Just to be very clear here, I’m not suggesting Republicans and conservative activists are siding with terrorists, or doing their bidding. While words like “treason,” “traitor,” “fifth columnists,” and “Tokyo Rose” comparisons were thrown around casually by prominent conservatives from 2001 to 2008, I think it’d be a mistake for the left to play a similarly odious game now.

I do, however, find it interesting that the same people who said liberal rhetoric literally undermined U.S. national security interests during the Bush era seem largely oblivious to the international effects of their right-wing activism now.

Whether Republicans realize it or not, by pitting Americans against one another, and using anti-Islam animus as an election-season strategy, the right is motivating more than just the GOP base.

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Steve Benen

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.