A View From the Cheap Seats

May 19, 2010

Radical What?

Filed under: National,Politics — trzupek @ 3:26 pm


By Rich Trzupek

Last week’s exchange between Attorney General Eric Holder and Congressman Lamar Smith during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee sums up the Obama administration’s struggles with today’s foreign policy realities pretty darn well:

“In the case of all three attempts in the last year, the terrorist attempts, one of which was successful, those individuals have had ties to radical Islam,” Congressman Smith said. “Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?”

“Because of… ?” Holder replied.

“Radical Islam,” Smith repeated.

“There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions,” Holder said. “I think you have to look at each individual case.”

Smith tried again: “Yes, but radical Islam could have been one of the reasons?”

“There are a variety of reasons why people…”

By all accounts, Smith is normally a mild-mannered guy, but he was starting to get a little cranky, asking the same question for the fourth time: “But was radical Islam one of them?”

“There are a variety of reasons why people do things,” Holder said. “Some of them are potentially religious…”

“Okay,” Smith said. “But all I’m asking is if you think among those variety of reasons radical Islam might have been one of the reasons that the individuals took the steps that they did.”

“You see, you say ‘radical Islam,’” Holder protested. “I mean, I think those people who espouse a – a version of Islam that is not…”

“Are you uncomfortable attributing any actions to radical Islam?” asked Smith. “It sounds like it.”

Ya think?

And so it went. At the end of the dialogue, Holder finally allowed himself to use the words “radical” and “Islam” in the same sentence, albeit not actually next to each other. Can’t be too careful about these things.

I don’t think that the Attorney General would hesitate to place the words “right-wing” and “extremist” adjacent to each other, if some loony longing for the glory days of the Third Reich tried to blow something up. I also rather doubt that he would use the adjectives “radical” and “fundamentalist” in front of the noun “Christian” if somebody who believes themselves to be the avenging hand of God blew up an abortion clinic.

As a right-wing kind of guy and as a Christian, I would not be offended in the least in either case. In fact, I would expect Holder to use just such terms and I would want him to, if for no other reason than to make it clear that there is a difference between the “right-wing” and “right-wing extremists” and between Christians and radical, fundamentalist Christians. So why all the pussy-footing around in this case?

Is the administration trying to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities? Please. How can a sensible Muslim be offended if the Attorney General of the United States points out that fanatics whom everybody – with the apparent exception of Eric Holder – knows are acting in the name of their religion are in fact “radicals?”

More likely, this is part of the Obama administration’s continuing effort to de-Bush itself. Yeah, they’ll fight the war on terror, but now it’s an “overseas contingency operation,” which has the singular effect of sounding ludicrous to pretty much everyone on both sides of the political spectrum. But calling it the “war on terror” is much to W.

Holder’s latest tap-dance sounds like more of the same. Using the words “radical Islam” would make him sound just like that right-wing lunatic from Texas and God knows we can’t have that. Who knows what motivates somebody who spends five months in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan to try and blow up Times Square after all? It could be just about anything. Perhaps, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hilariously suggested after the Times Square bomb plot was discovered, it was the result of discontent over health care.

Granted, you’d never hear George W. Bush, or anyone in his administration, offer such a patently transparent equivocation, but the same could be said of Bill Clinton and his gang. Does Holder understand how silly he sounds? Probably not, for this administration doesn’t seem capable of putting campaign-mode behind it.

Of course, conducting a campaign is the one thing that Obama and his cronies do very, very well. Leading a nation and dealing with religious fanatics who are trying to destroy western civilization? Not so much.


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