Politics & Policy

Fighting Terror with Stupidity

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Political distractions abound in the wake of the horrific shooting.

What a dumb time to be alive.

In a normal country during normal times, the jihadi terrorist shooting in Orlando in which 49 people were murdered in cold blood — and more than 50 injured — would be a cause for a serious debate about national security. Instead, it has been taken as an opportunity to light a bonfire of the inanities.

Let’s start at the top. President Obama once famously said (more than once, actually), “Don’t tell me words don’t matter.”

Fast-forward to this week, when in a tantrum of biblical proportions, the furious president said . . . words don’t matter.

Responding to complaints from Donald Trump and others that he won’t say the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” Obama huffed, “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

Never mind that Obama’s passion refuted his own argument. Perhaps he’s right that “there is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam,’” but if that’s the case, why the years of stubborn refusal to say it? It’s almost like Obama still thinks “words matter” — he just wants to mock anyone who thinks the “wrong” words matter.

But let’s discuss this “political distraction” business. Before the blood had been mopped up in Orlando, the president and the woman seeking to replace him immediately tried to make the second-worst Islamic terror attack on American soil into anything other than Islamic terrorism.

Over and over again, news outlets uncritically reported on the “common-sense” effort to implement more stringent background checks and get rid of automatic weapons, AR-15s, and other “assault” weapons. Well, automatic weapons — i.e., machine guns — are already essentially banned for civilians. And the weapon used in Orlando wasn’t an assault weapon or an AR-15. As for background checks, they already exist. Moreover, the FBI conducted two extensive investigations into the shooter — a background check far more exhaustive than any proposed checks.

The Democrats’ proposal is opposed by the head of the FBI because it would make tracking terrorists more difficult.

The terror-watch-list ban on gun purchases that Democrats now desire is a constitutional horror show if you believe, as the ACLU does, that the federal government shouldn’t be allowed to unilaterally draw up secret lists to deny people their civil rights.

Of course, Democrats insist they’re just being pragmatic, which is why Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) thinks the constitutional requirement for due process is “killing us.” What he didn’t mention is that the Democrats’ proposal is opposed by the head of the FBI because it would make tracking terrorists more difficult. Apparently, “common sense” requires trampling the Constitution to make the FBI’s job harder.

“A ban on Muslims would not have stopped this attack. Neither would a wall. I don’t know how one builds a wall to keep the Internet out,” Hillary Clinton said to guffaws from the crowd at a campaign event in Virginia. “Not one of Donald Trump’s reckless ideas would have saved a single life in Orlando.”

OK, but her proposals wouldn’t have saved any lives either. Moreover, this is the woman who insisted her illegal private e-mail server was secure because it was guarded by armed Secret Service agents. Ironically, their guns do save lives, but they’re no more effective than a wall at combating the Internet.

Still, for all its stupidity, the gun conversation looks like a debate at the Algonquin Round Table compared with the effort to make the Orlando shooting all about homophobia and gay marriage.

“While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear,” the New York Times editorialized, “it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians.” 

“Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum,” added the Gray Lady (I’m referring to the Times, not Clinton). “They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.”

The killer was a registered Democrat. The source of his hatred was not the Christian Coalition but radical Islamism. He stated this motivation clearly during the shooting and for months prior. He reportedly also considered attacking that notorious gay hangout Disney World. Would we be hearing about the pernicious, right-wing, anti-cartoon-character climate if he’d opted for that target?

Maybe we would, because all that really matters to the people who hate saying “radical Islamic terrorism” is that we cling to the right political distractions.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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