Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2010

LAUGHING AT THEM, NOT WITH THEM.... Jon Stewart asked President Obama's Republican critics the other night exactly what they would have the president do differently about national security and counter-terrorism. Over the last week or so, the answer has become clear but unsatisfying: the right wants the administration to use the word "terror" a whole lot, under the assumption that the mere repetition would help keep Americans safe.

This reached comical depths yesterday when Rep. Pete King (R) of New York -- who, remember, is the ranking GOP lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee -- was asked for a "specific recommendation" that the administration could "implement right now" to improve the nation's security. "I think one main thing would be to -- just himself to use the word 'terrorism' more often," King replied.

There's obviously two angles to this. The first is that anyone over the age of five should realize that using the word "terrorism" over and over again does not actually serve a larger policy goal. And the second is that, far-right whining notwithstanding, the president and his team do use the word all the time. Rachel Maddow covered this quite effectively last night.

She noted, for example, that Republicans are "lying in a way that can be obviously, demonstrably, embarrassingly proven by anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google."

Maddow added,"When the people in the Republican Party who have the highest profile on national security say things that are easily, proveably, flagrantly false, that's a mistake. That makes it look like the party doesn't know what it's talking about a national security issues.... You guys, when you say President Obama doesn't use the word terrorism, try to remember that when you say that, people are laughing at you."

If it feels like, rhetorically, the entire political establishment is spinning its wheels, it's because that's true. For a year, the nation has confronted incredible challenges that demanded serious, credible debates. And for a year, we've ended up listening to -- and responding to -- total nonsense.

Instead of debating the stimulus package, Republicans wanted to explore a five-year spending freeze. Instead of debating health care reform, Republicans wanted to talk about death panels. Instead of debating cap-and-trade policy, Republicans wanted to talk about "Climategate." Instead of debating national security policy, Republicans want to pretend the president doesn't use a word he uses all the time.

Our political system has to mature quickly or our collective future is bleak.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

But...but...Cokie Robers assured me on NPR Monday Morning that terrorism and security is of course a losing issue for Democrats and a winning issue for Republicans!

Posted by: Gregory on January 7, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Our collective future IS bleak, because liberals continue to ignore the issues that matter, like respect for traditional marriage, listening to honest weather scientists, and living within our means.

Posted by: Al on January 7, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Pete King is not the ranking member on House Intel. That's Peter Hoekstra.

Pete King is ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Posted by: b on January 7, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Pete King is not the ranking member on House Intel. That's Peter Hoekstra. Pete King is ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. Posted by: b on January 7, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Either way, both appointments are further proof that Republicans are always putting their Peters where they don't belong.

Posted by: *ducks* on January 7, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

If Billy Kristol says it , then it must be so . After all the best organised White house has always been at war with Eastasia . The war effort has been so successful that it now is focussed to "War on all things not or un Republican" .

Posted by: FRP on January 7, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

So, is this "Al" serious or just a master of sarcasm?

Posted by: Greg Worley on January 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Our collective future IS bleak, because liberals continue to ignore the issues that matter, like respect for traditional marriage, listening to honest weather scientists, and living within our means.

Respect for traditional marriage? As demonstrated by serial adulterers and multiple divorcers like Republicans Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and Bob Barr? Or as demonstrated by Republicans who engage the services of prostitutes, seduce teenage boys, and look for sex in men's room stalls like David Vitter, Mark Page and Larry Craig?

Listening to "honest" climate scientists? You do realize that NASA, NOAA, and all the other climatologists out there agree with the East Anglia folks, right?

Living within our means? Like Reagan did, when he quadrupled the national debt? Or like Dubya did, when he passed two giant tax cuts that flatlined the economy? Or like Republicans did when they last ran things, passing Medicare Part D with NO means of funding it, just tacking on $40 billion a year in debt?

Please be precise in your terms. Otherwise, it's hard to tell just how big of a moron you are.

Posted by: TR on January 7, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Symbols over substance. Yup. That's our Republican Party. Wistful thinking will make it so!

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on January 7, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, you're so right, Al. There's a very attractive lesbian couple who live next door to me and every day under their sexy baleful influence I can feel my marriage weakening... weakening....

Posted by: Gummo on January 7, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

What always amazes me is that Republicans say these things while not literally holding up their middle finger to the camera while speaking. The blatant contempt they have for Americans is sickening.

Posted by: DH Walker on January 7, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Our elected Republicans are just paraphrasing Star Trek:

"Terr-or-ism? That is a worship word! You must speak it! All the time!"

Posted by: Gummo on January 7, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Our political system has to mature quickly or our collective future is bleak."

Since the GOP really is the party of crazy (and even if it wasn't, it would still be the party of total obstruction, as it was in 1993-4), the most likely route I can see to that would be for the Dems to pick up another few seats in the Senate this fall, and we know how likely that is. So yeah, right now our collective future looks pretty bleak.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 7, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

For those who don't know, Al is a longtime contributing parody troll. Please do not engage him as if he were serious.

Posted by: Socratic Attitude on January 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

"So, is this "Al" serious or just a master of sarcasm?"

I believe Al is Head of Parody, working for Anything Left of Crazy conspiracy.

Steve, typo in third last paragraph "challenged" should be "challenges"

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on January 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the sad thing is that people aren't laughing at them--they're thinking "you know, he's got a point." Uninformed and/or misinformed people hear this and it sounds right.

The goal is (and has been for some time now) misinformation and obfuscation buttressed by a criminal disinclination for immediate fact-checking. If a strong democracy is founded on an informed populace--as has been said--we're screwed.

Posted by: terraformer on January 7, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"LAUGHING AT THEM, NOT WITH THEM"

Or, as Robin Williams said in Dead Poets Society, "We're not laughing at you, we're laughing near you."

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on January 7, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

She noted, for example, that Republicans are "lying in a way that can be obviously, demonstrably, embarrassingly proven by anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google."

Of course. However, until lying results in some kind of negative consequence for the lair, lying will continue -- and energetically.

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on January 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, does Rep. King seriously believe that saying "terrorism" over and over will actually do anything? That's like saying if you click your heels three times and say "There's no place like home," you can fly to Kansas. With your dog.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on January 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

This is about firing up the Republicans' base. The base isn't laughing at them. The base is nodding yes.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on January 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

So then what it is about this country that allows them to behave in this manner without any serious repercussions?

The media? Apathy? What? I am at a serious loss.

This country is no longer a viable functioning country and while we're debating whether Satan placed dinosaur bones on earth to deceive us, other countries are educating their populace, taking measure against global warming, and developing 21st century industries.

The Age of American dominance is over, thanks for the most part to a conservative political ideology that puts business profits over the welfare of a country.


Posted by: citizen_pain on January 7, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

What the Republicans have repeatedly proven over the last two or thee decades is that
1. they are entirely focused on manipulating their own media image, and
2. they are disinterested in and cannot competently perform actual governance activities.

Nothing demonstrates both of these better than their proposal that Obama could improve American security by using the word "terrorism" in public more.

There is one other Republican competency, though. The Republicans are quite competent at practicing corruption in office.

Posted by: Rick B on January 7, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Someone -- Stewart, Colbert, Maddow -- needs to develop a "Lie-ometer" with a dial that runs from green to red that shows up at the bottom of the videos of these jokers whenever they run Republican nonsense videos.

It would make a great image in the next day's press -- showing King, Hoekstra, Bachman, etc. deep into the red zone. Make them argue publicly why they shouldn't be called liars instead of giving them the credibility they crave.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 7, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

"what it is about this country that allows them to behave in this manner without any serious repercussions?"

I think the biggest problem is the media- it used to be that reporters interviewed someone, then put story in context - (read fact check; get story from other side; dispense with or point out obvious lies)
Now the interview has to be "live" with no fact checking and "reporter" using questions posed by the other side; or the two sides shouting at each other with interviewer only there to egg them on.

Someone needs to start calling out Anderson Cooper and others who pretend to be objective when they are often just ignorant or trying to stir up debate.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on January 7, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

pj in jesusland, rather than (or in addition to) your lieometer, how about a thermometer for each serious news program with the number of lies that weren''t challenged or refuted during their program? Do competitions for the week

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on January 7, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, ranking GOP members have been spouting nonsense and easily-verifiable untruths for at least a year now. Yet they are still invited onto Sunday talk shows and their comments are played on the news. Somehow, in some way, the story that the GOP is regularly saying things that Just Are Not True never gets reported. For some reason, the media still treats the GOP as a serious political party, presumably interested in actually governing, instead of just tearing everything down.

Funny how that is, huh?

Posted by: biggerbox on January 7, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

What the Republican yobs do not mention is that Obama has sharply stepped up drone attacks on Al Qaeda, and has been taking a heavy toll on them. He is, in fact, taking the war to the terrorists far more than Bush ever did, and this is provoking Al Qaeda attempts to retaliate, however half-assed in this case.

Posted by: bob h on January 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele should have called his new book, "The Purpose-Free Life".

Posted by: Mark on January 7, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Couldn't the White House just hire an intern to just say "terrorism" over and over? Hell, you could probably get some rich college kid to do it as an unpaid internship.
Now THAT'S effective government, Republican style!

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on January 7, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

A lie-ometer would work on Daily Show or Colbert, but Maddow is constricted by NBC. Every cable news anchor is on a corporate leash.
Perhaps a kinder more civilized "Gee does that remark sound right?" - meter might pass. Doubt it.

Posted by: csmith on January 7, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

WAr! Terror! Fear!...War! Terror! Fear!
The republican mantra. unfortunatley it works with a lot of Americans.

Posted by: EDR on January 7, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Our political system has to mature quickly or our collective future is bleak."

WTF? I'm not sure I can remember a time when it was wasn't the case that our system needed "to mature quickly" or the future would be bleak.

At some point, the exhortations for quick turnabouts in direction start to look pretty comical.

Posted by: s9 on January 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's worse than that.

Fox News is everywhere down here in the South. It runs in personnel offices at my work, its on in my doctors office, in the waiting room where I get my car fixed.

A couple days ago, FOX did a blurb on the Edsel Ford High School t-shirt incident. Fox pressed the Arab-American aspect of the incident, interviewed outraged students, and showed the t-shirts, listing the items which were enflaming.

What Fox did not do was ask the students what the t-shirts represented. The next day, online elsewhere, I found where the kids were quoted as saying the t-shirts were supporting their class and were upset that anyone could misrepresent their logo.

Did FOX recant any of its inflamatory dialogue? No. The workers around me were all upset by the t-shirts, but I felt they were being led to it by the tone Fox News set in its presentation. Morevoer, when I brought the students statements into work the next day, my co-workers wouldn't listen to the other side of the story, they had formed their opinion. In my view, Fox News formed it for them. They didn't want to know that Fox was wrong in how it presented the "facts" of this group of Arab-American students. I guess if one admits Fox was wrong on this, the possibility of Fox being wrong about other things too would always hang out there.

And that isn't the worst of it.

Those students actual lives could have been endangered by FOX blatant insistance on reporting their Arab-American heritage. Arab = terrorist is very prevelant in America just now.

Fox News is Americans talking to Americans about other Americans. This is American media "reporting" across this nation without heed of endangering American childrens lives.

Dam straight our collective future is bleak and it is not the media, it is not the political crap, it's We, the People. The media and those we vote into office are our responsibility. You and me. And if you and me don't take responsibility, someone else will, someone else has. My coworkers refusal to see the danger of Fox are a microcosm of this nation. Not enough Americans want to admit the dream is turning ugly, nor do we want to give up our comforts to take action. Group venting at the twin cardboard effigies of media and politics accomplishes nothing and they know that. If our future is bleak, we only have ourselves to blame.

PS: I don't have cable in my home. I won't pay good money for commercials and brain-washing. I don't watch TV at all any more. My clock radio is set to ESPN. My car radio stays off. I vote my conscience, not my party (D). Yes, it is lonely and I often feel like a pariah, but I love my country and its constitution. I won't be party to those who are ruining it.

Posted by: Jo Durt on January 7, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

It is so sad to see the Dems always punk'd by the Reps.

Reps say "hey, you're not saying 'terror' enough"

Dems say "yes we are: Terror, Terror, Terror"

Reps think "thanks for reminding people of the issue polls say we handle better than you"

Posted by: PoorRichard on January 7, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK
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