20 February 2010

Fatto in casa

Homegrown terrorism.

The hysteria reached its height in September when, in a live Capitol Hill press conference, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, tearfully invoked the 1978 murder of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk as an example of where conservative commentary about Obama and the Democratic Congress would inevitably lead.

Had these newfound watchdogs of political comity shown anything near such concern while the last occupant of the White House was in office, their complaints today might be more credible. But they seem to unearth this conscience only when conservatives are out of power. Never mind the series of known (in addition to the many, presumably unreported) assassination attempts against the previous president, so reviled by the same politicians and pundits who now decry the loss of political decorum, or that his murder had actually been delightedly fictionalized in both novelistic (Checkpoint, by Nicholson Baker) and cinematic (Death of a President) form. President Obama, the mandarins of the media assure us, has been the recipient of a hatred the venom of which has not been seen since the assassination of John F. Kennedy (whom, it is always worth pointing out, was murdered by a Communist). The not-so-subtle purpose of this campaign has been to associate the deplorable rhetoric of a handful in the right-wing fever swamp with the appreciable mass of conservatives, thus painting the president’s critics as racists prone to violence.


Given the rhetoric and actions of the present administration, which wants to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, prosecute CIA officers for using interrogation techniques disfavored by the American Civil Liberties Union, and generally approach the war on Islamic supremacism as a legalistic exercise, it is hardly certain that such a course will be followed. But the least we can ask of our nation’s political and intellectual elite is that they stop wailing about the phantom menace of “right-wing” terrorism and start paying more attention to the genuine article.

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