Monday, February 27, 2017

Religious Terrorism

Frank Luntz, labeled here "America's best-known public opinion guru," helped write the 1994 "Contract with America." If it had been characterized accurately as the Contract on America, it would not have helped bring about the GOP's stunning success in the congressional elections that autumn.

No one understands better that words have huge symbolic avenue than does Luntz- or perhaps former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear.  He and Vox's Sarah Kliff, writes the latter, "talked about the strategic decisions he made to sell Obama care in an area that was staunchly opposed to the law, and what he felt worked and what didn't."

Democrat Beshear decided to establish a state-based exchange, rather than a national-based exchange, and called it the system "Kynect," a takeoff on "Kentucky" and "connection."  However

another reason we named it Kynect is because we wanted to get as far away from the word “Obamacare” as we could.

The president [then President Obama] has about a 30 percent approval rating in Kentucky, so it's not popular politically to have the president front and center on any issue here. The term Obamacare had already been turned into a curse word by the critics of the program.

Polls at that time in Kentucky showed that Obamacare was disapproved of by maybe 60 percent of the people. Kynect was disapproved by only, like, 20 percent. Of course it was the same thing.

But I still remember, we had a big booth at the Kentucky State Fair. And lots of people were coming up and finding out what the program was.

I walked by one day, and one of our folks was explaining to this fellow in bib overalls what this was. And this guy, I heard him say, “Oh, man. This is great. This is a lot better than that Obamacare.”

One can hope there was a similar motive when President Trump's National Security adviser, Lt.Gen. H.R. McMaster

told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting.

That is a repudiation of the language regularly used by both the president and General McMaster’s predecessor, Michael T. Flynn, who resigned last week after admitting that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about a phone call with a Russian diplomat.

It is also a sign that General McMaster, a veteran of the Iraq war known for his sense of history and independent streak, might move the council away from the ideologically charged views of Mr. Flynn, who was also a three-star Army general before retiring.

If this steers the President from the thoughtlessly radical approach he has thus far signaled, American policy toward the region and to Muslim refugees is likely to benefit.

It is also a a more politically correct, less controversial, approach than telling the hard truths.

After Robert Lewis Dear shot and murdered three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic,  he told investigators no more baby parts" and, The New York Times reported, "one person who spoke with him extensively about his religious views said Mr. Dear, who is 57, had praised people who attacked abortion providers, saying they were doing 'God's work.'"

Evangelical Christian Dear had committed a terrorist attack, notwithstandint the failure across the political spectrum to acknowledge him as a terrorist or at least as the "alleged terrorist." The Washington Post- without the words "terrorist" or "terrorism"or even the bland "domestic "terrorism"-  noted at the time "Dear recited Bible verses throughout the conversation and said he was 'happy because his actions … ensured that no more abortions would be conducted at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs.'”

Dear was no less a terrorist because he represented the fringe of the fringe of his religious group. Identifying as a Christian, he took Christian theology to an extreme, added a helping of right-wing politics and easy access to firearms, and (allegedly) murdered innocent people.

None (or at least, few) dared call it terrorism, which allowed the right to define such violence exclusively in terms of Islam.  That helped Donald Trump become President Trump, where he would list 78 examples of terrorism he claimed to be under-reported, none of which was committed by a Christian. The concept of "terrorism," and its source(s), has been distorted by a political class frightened to examine the role of religious extremism.

And so Bill Maher (somewhat unrelated video from 10/14, below) evidently had it right when one year ago he explained

Then there's his plan to ban all Muslims. Let's get clear on something: I absolutely don't believe that we should ban all Muslims coming into this country. One, we need Muslims in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Two, it's not American....

So no, Donald Trump is not right — but he will win the election if the American people have to choose between his demagoguery and a party that won't even say the words "Islamic terrorism." I think the Democrats could lose on that issue alone, especially if there's another attack.

A National Security Adviser (or a state governor) does not have the luxury of a national political party, which should frame issues advantageously, which the Democratic Party has refused to do. When a  foreign policy advisor, serving a President with a hateful and dangerous agenda, avoids "radical Islamic terrorism," the policy implications are beneficent.  Sometimes the truth is better kept hidden.

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