Palin palling around with Tancredo's extremism
During the 2008 Presidential Election, then-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who has now endorsed Tom Tancredo, accused then-Sen. Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists," because the president had served on the board of an anti-poverty group alongside former Weather Underground member William Ayers, who is now a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
In the 1960s, the Weather Underground perpetrated a series of bombings of government buildings, although due to the fact that they warned most of their targets beforehand, there were few casualties -- three Weathermen died in New York when a bomb they were making exploded prematurely. The United States' definition of terrorism is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents," a definition that carefully exonerates states from charges of terrorism if they deliberately target noncombatants.
Still, deliberately targeting non-combatants is something that Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tancredo is comfortable with.In 2007, he advocated threatening to bomb Mecca and Medina to deter a nuclear strike from al-Qaeda terrorists. Not only would attacking the holiest cities in Islam be the worst possible strategic action one could take in retaliation to a terrorist attack, but Mecca alone has a population of about 1.4 million people who wouldn't have anything in common with the perpetrators other than calling themselves Muslims. In that hypothetical scenario, retaliation should be swift, sure, and accurate. Targeting innocent people, rather than the terrorists themselves, would be the next best thing for the terrorists beyond actually succeeding at carrying out an attack.
This statement also can't be defended by arguing that the Soviet Union and the United States had adhered to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction if one side used nuclear weapons. The people living in Mecca and Medina aren't citizens or subjects of al-Qaeda, they merely all self-identify as Muslims.
While Tancredo later tried to say he never said such a thing, that was a different time, when George W. Bush's outreach to Muslims helped sideline some of the more extreme Islamophobic elements on the right. At the time, as Thinkprogress points out, the State Department said Tancredo's statements were "reprehensible" and "absolutely crazy." Even other prospective Republican presidential candidates at the time distanced themselves from Tancredo's remarks.
Today, in the aftermath of the controversy of the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, many mainstream conservatives have openly embraced hostility towards Islam, so it's no surprise that Tancredo has recently chosen to reiterate his past statements. As George Zornick at Thinkprogress noted yesterday, Tancredo, locked in a tight gubernatorial race as the Constitution Party candidate against Democrat John Hickenlooper, defended his original remarks:
You guys, remember, the statement that I made, in the context in which it was made, I think is quite defensible. I still do, and I still would say it. It is just that I would have absolutely no reason to say it as the governor of the state of Colorado. There are a lot of other issues of which I would become involved. So it is kind of goofy to say, 'What if he said something like that again?' Well, you know, the fact is that there is a lot of people who, just as you say, are worried about these issues. But if they are not relevant to the state of Colorado, I am probably not going to be talking about it.
It is in this context that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin chose to endorse Tancredo yesterday. Palin's decision was transparent political cynicism -- in order to show she's a force within the movement, she wants to pick conservative candidates who are likely to win. Since Tancredo is to the right of the Republican nominee foundering in the polls, Dan Maes, he's the better bet.
Sure, as governor of Colorado, Tancredo thankfully won't be responsible for formulating American foreign policy. But since we demand that American Muslims categorically reject political violence as a condition of participating as legitimate voices in American public discourse, it seems only fair that we ask the same of American politicians running for the position of chief executive to an entire state. Certainly, given Sarah Palin's express concerns about Obama's tenuous connections to Ayers and acts he took when the president himself was a child, it seems odd that she should endorse a candidate who has openly speculated about targeting innocent people in order to make a political point.
It shouldn't matter that the people in question happen to be Muslim.
| November 2, 2010; 11:38 AM ET
Categories: 2010 elections, Foreign policy and national security
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