Jonah Goldberg

To those who think ‘right wing’ equals ‘terrorist’

Updated: 2013-04-27T22:48:53Z

By JONAH GOLDBERG

Tribune Media Services

In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued this warning: “If history were to repeat itself, and we were to return to the so-called normalcy of the 1920s, then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home.”

The “normalcy” of the 1920s that Roosevelt referred to was a time of peace and prosperity. The decade began with Republican President Warren Harding commuting the sentences of political prisoners jailed by the Wilson administration, including the socialist leader Eugene Debs.

“Normalcy” meant the end to the Palmer raids aimed at rooting out dissidents, the cessation of domestic surveillance and the state propaganda of the World War I years.

Also, “A return to normalcy” was Harding’s campaign slogan in the 1920 presidential election, which he won in a landslide over Democrat James Cox and his running mate — Franklin D. Roosevelt.

That Roosevelt nurtured resentments against the Republicans for the drubbing he received in 1920 is no surprise. That those resentments ran deep enough for him to smear Republicans in 1944 with the “spirit of fascism” at the height of the war against the real thing is nothing short of disgusting. But it was effective.

When a communist assassinated President John Kennedy, somehow the American right got the blame. Lyndon Johnson translated that myth into a campaign of slander against Barry Goldwater, casting him as a crypto-Nazi emissary of “hate.”

After the Oklahoma City bombing, President Bill Clinton insinuated that Rush Limbaugh and his imitators were partly to blame.

Such partisanship is hardly reserved for partisans. The late Daniel Schorr, then of CBS News, reported that Goldwater’s planned European trip was a rendezvous with the German right in “Hitler’s onetime stomping ground.”

Schorr spent his golden years at National Public Radio. No doubt he would have been pleased with the “reporting” of its counterterrorism correspondent, Dina Temple-Raston. Before the identities of the Boston bombers were confirmed, she said her sources were “leaning” toward believing that it was a homegrown “right-wing” attack.

Over the last few years, the invariably unjustified rush to pin violence on the “right wing” has reached the point of parody. Remember when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speculated that the foiled Times Square bomber might be angry about Obamacare?

As the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein recently noted, among the myriad reasons conservatives take offense at this idiotic knee-jerk slander is that the term “right wing” is routinely used to describe both terrorists and mainstream Republicans such as Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.

Some claim there’s great similarity between mainstream conservative ideology and the terror-filled creeds of the far right. Except there isn’t. Timothy McVeigh, an atheist, wasn’t part of the conservative or libertarian movements. He wasn’t even part of the militia movement. And what on earth was right wing about the Columbine shootings?

In plenty of cases of multiple killings, from the Unabomber to Christopher Dorner, the perpetrators espoused views closer to the mainstream left’s than McVeigh had to the mainstream right. Yet Occupy Wall Street was an idealistic expression of democratic protest, but the tea partiers were brownshirts in khakis.

And, recall that Secretary of State John Kerry belonged to a group — Vietnam Veterans Against the War — that once discussed assassinating American politicians, while Barack Obama was friendly with a convicted domestic terrorist.

But to even bring these things up is considered outrageous guilt by association.

And you know what? Maybe it is. But if that is outrageous, what do you call the paranoid style of liberal politics that has confused normalcy for fascism for more than half a century?

To reach Jonah Goldberg, send email to jonahscolumn@aol.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/JonahNRO.

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