Election 2016

Republicans Have Waded Into the Fever Swamps

There's never been a greater need to keep America safe from current and aspiring Americans.

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On Friday retired Gen. Wesley Clark suggested people who are "disloyal to the United States" should be put in WWII-style internment camps. He meant Islamist radicals, not Confederate flag-wavers. Either way, locking people up because they "have an ideology," as Clark put it, is disloyal to the Bill of Rights — so the first person to go in any Disloyalty Camp should be Clark himself.

Clark once ran briefly for President as a Democrat, but his comments suggest he might be more comfortable in today's GOP, which lately has been having a love/hate relationship with Donald Trump. Despite mouthing off about Sen. John McCain's war record, Trump is doing very well among the Republican rank and file, thanks to his tough-guy bluster. A lot of the base sees him as a teller of hard truths: Mexican immigrants are drug pushers and rapists, we still need to find out whether President Obama's birth certificate is real, and so on.

Democrats have been having a whale of a time with the Republicans' "Trump problem." Many of them like to say Trump is not a problem for the GOP, he is the GOP — and that's the real problem: Republicans have waded so far into the fever swamps that somebody like Trump can spout the most lunatic nonsense and still fit right in. 

This is inaccurate. It would be more accurate to say Republicans have waded so far into the fever swamps that all of the candidates can spout the most lunatic nonsense and still fit right in.

For instance: The other day Rand Paul, who has twice filibustered the Senate to protest the danger national-security measures pose to civil liberties, said he might like to revive NSEERS, the National Security Entry Exit Registration System.

The heck is that? As Shikha Dalmia explained recently, it was a program created after 9/11 that, among other things, "not only singled out Muslims entering the country for extra interrogation at the airport," but also required large numbers of Muslim males over 16 who already were living in the U.S. to register in person at federal immigration offices. Registration including being photographed and fingerprinted.

You can easily see why this was a horrible idea (NSEERS finally was cancelled in 2011). There are several million Muslims in the U.S., and the percentage of them who are apt to carry out a terrorist attack like the recent Chattanooga shooting by Muhammad Abdulazeez is ridiculously small. Percentage-wise, it's probably even smaller than the share of gun-owners in the U.S. who commit gun crimes, which is a very small share indeed. (There are about 66 million gun owners in the U.S. and about 400,000 gun-related crimes per year). What's more, any Muslim males thinking about committing a terrorist act probably would not be inclined to comply with NSEERS requirements. Still, forcing people with suspicious backgrounds to register with the government probably sounds good to a lot of folks, at least so long as you don't make anyone wear a gold star.

Yet as far as fellow GOP presidential hopefuls Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry are concerned, Rand Paul is a lily-livered sob sister. Graham says a Paul presidency would be "devastating" in many ways, but especially "for national security." Christie says Paul is a "misguided ideologue" who has done so much harm to national security that if another terrorist attack occurs, Paul should be hauled before "congressional hearings." Perry has written that in the face of the terrorist threat Paul wants to do "next to nothing."

And let's not forget Ted Cruz, who is not one to let a competitor get to his right on national security, or anything else. Trump's swipe at prisoners of war went too far for other Republican candidates, but not for Cruz, who said he would not indulge the media by getting into a spat with another Republican. (We'll see how long that lasts.) In fact, Cruz says he is one of Trump's biggest fans: While conceding Trump is "not always artful," Cruz says "he is focusing on the enormous problem of illegal immigration and the need to secure the border,. This is something I have been fighting for for years, leading the fight to secure the border and he is absolutely right." 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker thinks Americans need protection not only from illegal immigrants but from the legal kind as well: ""In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying … the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that's based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages." Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, is manning the barricades against the homosexual agenda that threatens not just the traditional American family but civilization itself. Rick Santorum is right there with him, because America is at a "tipping point."

This is all well and good, but if Republicans really want to keep America safe, they will have to widen the net. As the massacre at a black church in Charleston shows, white supremacists can pose quite a threat to security. In 2002 the FBI's section chief for domestic terrorism testified before Congress about the threat of eco-terrorism from environmental and animal-rights activists. Seven years later, the Department of Homeland Security warned about the potential terrorist threat posed by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This past February, DHS and the FBI warned about the threat posed by right-wing militias, "sovereign citizens," and other anti-government forces. 

Clearly, the U.S. faces peril from an unprecedented number of threats: Latino and other immigrants, Muslims, disloyal citizens, gays and lesbians, environmentalists, veterans, right-wingers, left-wingers.… Add up all the warnings and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that there has never been a greater need to keep America safe from current and aspiring Americans.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. Seven years later, the Department of Homeland Security warned about the potential terrorist threat posed by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This past February, DHS and the FBI warned about the threat posed by right-wing militias, “sovereign citizens,” and other anti-government forces

    What happened to “those that work forces, like to burn crosses”?

  2. So here is the problem. Trump may say “lunatic things” as you claim, not those lunatic things resonate with a good portion of the GOP base. In fact, the Tea Party, a group roundly loved in these parts, has been a large part of Trump’s support.

    http://www.newsmax.com/t/newsmax/article/654791

    It’s not so much these GOP candidates say lunatic things, it’s really that such a large portion of the GOP base BELIEVES lunatic things. Or else these candidates wouldn’t say them.

    1. “It’s not so much these GOP candidates say lunatic things, it’s really that such a large portion of the GOP base BELIEVES lunatic things.”

      There is so much “us vs. them” going on, resulting in believing in lunatic things.

      On the other end of the scale you have people who believe that it should be legal to abort a living baby at the end of the third trimester, as long as it’s still in the womb, just because the other side doesn’t believe abortion should be OK at all.

      Each side specifically delights in anything that riles up the other side, just for the sake of it, and are willing to endure kooks in the pursuit of that goal.

      1. Also read the comments by Democrats on the Clark story.

        They start out by gnashing their teeth about putting young muslims in camps, but quickly regress into a giant circle-jerk about how wonderful it would be to put all Republicans, libertarians, teabaggers, men, etc. in camps for the good of the rest of society.

        1. Yes, all the while ignoring the fact that one of their heroes actually put Americans into internment camps.

          1. Elizabeth Warren?

  3. “I think we agree, the past is over.” – George W Bush

    1. That’s worthy of Yogi Berra.

  4. I predict a large amount of absolute lunacy in this comment thread.

  5. “at least so long as you don’t make anyone wear a gold star”

    gold stars are gauche.

    gold crescents are good common sense policy

    also this is an entirely new situation in every way and history has nothing to teach us about the wisdom of forcing an entire religion out of a country, or making an entire religion register with the government. As we all know, Depending on your team, history began either with the election of LBJ or the election of Reagan. The inquisition is something we do at colleges to frat boys.

    1. Did I say LBJ? I meant JFK. Wait … no, I meant FDR. Thats the one. FDR.

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  7. The headline should read “Politicians Have Waded Into the Fever Swamps.” Citing a Democrat like Clark to start off an article ostensibly about Republicans doesn’t make sense otherwise. Clark is just as out there as Trump, and arguably worse. Jailing someone for merely sympathizing with a cause – prior to taking any action — constitutes punishing Thought Crime. So far as I know, Trump isn’t advocating (yet) punishing Mexicans who are merely entertaining a hope of perhaps one day emigrating to the U.S.

    And let’s not forget the fellow who cites 26 choices of deodorant as being the cause of child hunger. If true, shouldn’t deodorant manufacturers either immediately be made to close up shop or else report to Clark’s re-education camps as well?

    I’m starting to think that Shrillary, with all her attacks on the sharing economy and her justifications for running of “It’s my turn!” may be one of the more sane voices in the race from either side. If so, that is truly, truly sad.

  8. The Reasonoids really have to go out of their way everyday to show that they aren’t Republicans. Hillary is corrupt, Bernie is a socialist and has been Clark is an out and out fascist no hiding it.

    BUT Trump is Hitler, Ted Cruz is Lucifer, Scott Walker is a Union-busting Pinkerton and Christie is the StayPuft Marshmallow Man.

    Look Trump is a fucking ass. But while we may disagree regarding immigration policy, it doesn’t make someone evil incarnate because they feel that a country has the right to control its borders.

    “it was a program created after 9/11 that, among other things, “not only singled out Muslims entering the country for extra interrogation at the airport,” but also required large numbers of Muslim males over 16 who already were living in the U.S. to register in person at federal immigration offices. Registration including being photographed and fingerprinted.” Of course, didn’t mention that this was for NON-CITIZENS. And considering we seem to go out of our way NOT to offend Muslims now perhaps this isn’t completely evil.

  9. I’d like to see a follow up article discussing the lunacy from the Democrat party as well. Start with Bernie Sanders’ assertion that we have too many kinds of deodorant.

    Bottomline, it appears whether we go Democrat or Republican….we’re the ones being thrown into the woodchipper.

  10. Don’t fret Bear. Anyone worried that Reason isn’t sufficiently Republican enough need only read the comments by it’s readers to realize the movement is fully committed to Team Red.

    1. Because the ‘phants are the lesser of two evils. Do you truly not see the danger posed by the far left ideology that dominates the Democratic party?
      We all know the libertarian candidate is not going to win, so the question is; do you:
      A) not vote at all, helping the psychopaths win
      B) vote for the psychopaths’ party candidate
      C) vote for a third party candidate, thus helping the psychopaths’ candidate win
      D) or hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, hoping to slow the advance of evil?

  11. So you want to smear Republicans, so you quote Wesley Clark, who is not a Republican and blame it on Republicans. I stopped reading at that point.

  12. What is the reasonable answer, then, to the question obviously posed by the muslim maggot who gunned down four of my Marines in Tennessee? Americans should be a proud, free people–who need not cower in fear of foreign muslims killing them when they go about their business.

    In all your capacity for tolerance (barf), are you quite ready to tolerate being murdered by a proponent of an ideology which swears its intention to destroy you? They are playing for keeps, but most of you have your head in the clouds, where you recite skeptic bromides when confronted by the reality of this. When you seemingly encounter a contradiction like this (between your principles and reality), it isn’t reality that’s in the wrong, I promise you.

    1. It would probably help if we stopped pretending that religion is an expression of reality and started treating it like the fantasy that it is. At least then we’d recognize that when someone begins to swear allegiance to imaginary ghosts they’ve already taken the first step on the road to crazy land.

    2. In all your capacity for tolerance (barf), are you quite ready to tolerate being murdered by a proponent of an ideology which swears its intention to destroy you?

      Incidents like this are so anomalous that they’re hardly worth constructing a walled police state over. Allow people (military personnel included) to protect themselves on the spot and these incidents would largely never occur in the 1st place.

  13. Wesley Clark supported BO for president and now supports Hillary. How is he being associated with Republicans. The only presidents to send citizens to camps were both Democrats: Wilson and FDR.

  14. Unfortunately, there’s currently a war going on between Christendom, and the Islamic world (or Islamism versus the West, or however one prefers to characterize it). I’m not in favor of putting anyone in any damn camps, but can’t we acknowledge the common sense reality that as long as this state of war tragically persists, that we should have a formal, nationwide policy of keeping Muslim would-be immigrants from entering our nation, in order to vastly reduce the likelihood of welcoming hostile infiltrators (including the children of law-abiding Muslims, who often go on to become the equivalent of hostile infiltrators, once they grow up…as we see happening today in Britain, France, etc.)? Its simply imprudent to allow Muslims to migrate to the USA, at a time when a statistically significant portion of them, would like to see us destroyed.

  15. You know what? If anybody cares, I think Trump is a troll.
    But to just throw Trump’s BS in with a legitimate argument about supply and demand in the labor force is disingenuous.

    1. For writers at Reason, the law of supply and demand does not apply to the labor market. They seem to believe there is in the economics of labor some effect analogous to the “multiplier effect” of government spending so beloved of the proggies. I think the underwear gnomes are involved.

      1. Since when does supply & demand not apply to the labor market??

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  18. You really mean:

    There’s never been a greater need to keep America safe from current and aspiring politicians.

  19. Trump is currently polling in the low 20s. Thats high when there are 16 candidates out there and no one is an obvious front runner. But it’s less than half of what he needs to win the nomination. And whereas not too many people not closely following politics know who Scott Walker is or know anything about Jeb Bush other than that he has a big brother named George W, everyone knows who Donald Trump is. And most of them have made up their mind about him. 20 some percent like him, but that means over 70 percent don’t.

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