News from the Votemaster
It's three down and 13 to go. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has suspended his campaign. And he did it for the usual reason: He ran out of money. He never really had much of a chance and rarely polled much above 3%. With the departure of Jindal, Rick Perry, and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), the once massive field of 17 candidates is reduced to a still massive field of 14 candidates. (V)
A new study of Latinos' views of the Republican field should be a cause for alarm for the GOP. Here is how they view the Republican field:
Ben Carson has the most favorable rating at 32%, followed by Jeb Bush at 28%, then Marco Rubio at 20% and Ted Cruz at 17%. If Republicans think that nominating a Cuban-American will do wonders for their support among Latinos, they may be surprised, as both Rubio and Cruz are deep under water. (V)
Two of Ben Carson's top advisers have told the New York Times that Carson doesn't understand much about foreign policy, despite their intensive tutoring him on the subject. Since the attacks in Paris last week have put the focus of the campaigns more on foreign policy and national security, this weakness is going to be very apparent at the next debate and could hurt Carson. Traditionally, one of the general election debates is on foreign policy, and his advisers are no doubt cringing at the thought of him going up against a former Secretary of State who is on a first-name basis with every leader in the world.
Carson has stumbled repeatedly in recent weeks, saying things like the Chinese are in Syria, being unable to name the countries he would try to get into a coalition against ISIS, etc. Maybe his supporters don't care that he doesn't know what he is talking about on the subject of foreign affairs, but as more people begin remembering that the President is the Commander-in-Chief, it could start to hurt him. (V)
The Service Employees International Union, which has 2 million members, endorsed Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie (I-VT) yesterday. Clinton has more than half a dozen large unions in her corner, including the AFSCME, AFT, and NEA. Sanders has only two unions supporting him, despite his call for a national $15 minimum wage. (V)
Voters in Louisiana will go to the polls on Saturday to elect a governor. Numerous polls now show Democrat John Bel Edwards leading Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) by somewhere between 10% and 16%. If Edwards wins, Vitter will be damaged goods when he runs for reelection to the Senate in 2016, possibly giving the Democrats a chance to pick up a seat. In a last ditch effort to save his campaign, Vitter has announced that he will not allow any Syrian refugees to settle in Louisiana. (V)
Actually, Vitter is not the only (would-be) governor to reject refugees. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) has done so as well. The only problem is that governors have no authority whatsoever in the matter. In Hines v. Davidowitz, the Supreme Court made it clear that the federal government has complete authority over immigration, naturalization, and deportation, and the states have none. Furthermore, under the Refugee Act of 1980, the President has clear authority to admit refugees. Of course, neither Vitter, not Abbott, nor any of the other governors who are trying to stop refugees coming to their states care about any of this. They are just grandstanding. (V)
Houston has an openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, and now so does Salt Lake City, of all places. The capital city of Utah, one of the reddest states in the union, just elected an openly lesbian mayor, Jackie Biskupski (D), by the margin of 51.5% to 48.5%. Also noteworthy is that Biskupski is not a Mormon in this heavily Mormon state. (V)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has called for Christian Syrian refugees to be allowed into the United States, because they are being persecuted. They do not represent a security risk, he says, because "There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror." He believes that Syrian Muslims, by contrast, should be banned because there is no way to know who among them is a terrorist. Any other approach, Cruz says, is "lunacy."
The Senator's remarks raise a whole host of questions. Does he believe the Muslim refugees are not being persecuted? If so, why are so many of them fleeing? And if "regular Muslims" and "Muslim terrorists" cannot be distinguished from one another, how does he propose to distinguish "actual Christians" from "non-Christians pretending to be Christians in order to gain entry into the United States"? Does he really believe that Christians cannot commit acts of terror? Has he never heard, for example, of Timothy McVeigh or the Ku Klux Klan? Most important of all: Does he really understand what 'terrorism' means?
If Ted Cruz is honestly not clear on what he is saying—a big assumption—his confusion would be somewhat forgivable, as there are many different conceptions of 'terrorism' floating around. The United Nations, for example, adopted this definition in 1996:
Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or [a] particular person, for political purposes.
The U.S. government (USC Title 22, Chapter 38) defines the concept thusly:
The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets.
Or the definition from dictionary.com:
The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
There are two concepts that appear in each definition above and in nearly all descriptions of terrorism: (1) Use of fear, and (2) Advancement of a political agenda. This may seem fairly clear, but it actually leaves room for a wide variety of violent acts. The aforementioned KKK and McVeigh, the Unabomber, the 9/11 and Paris attacks, and the Charleston Church shooting, for example. This short list encompasses six very different actions, using different tactics in service of very different goals by different types of people at different times and in different places. And yet, they are all universally recognized as terrorist acts. And then, what about more ambiguous acts that seem to fulfill one or more of the various definitions above. Is a presidential assassination an act of terrorism? Was the Holocaust? How about a drive-by shooting? A hate crime? Urban riots? After all, nearly all acts of violence trigger fear, and nearly all are at least partly motivated by political considerations of one sort or another.
Indeed, because 'terrorist' is fairly broad and rather subjective, the definition tends to have an implied element in addition to the two above: (3) Committed by someone we do not like. For example, consider a man who lived in an extremely oppressive country, where citizens were violently oppressed on the basis of race. He decided to fight back, and organized a political and military faction that was willing to resist his government by any means possible. The United States was disturbed by this man's activities, and formally declared him to be a terrorist in 1955. When he was captured and put in prison, the U.S. government sent a formal note of congratulations to his government. He was finally released from prison in 1990, though by that time the American opinion—on both him and his government—had changed dramatically. No longer was he a terrorist, now he was a hero. The individual in question, of course, was Nelson Mandela. And he is hardly an isolated example—others who have been labeled terrorists at one point or another: Eugene V. Debs, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Cesar Chavez. This also works in the other direction. Among the men who were once regarded as friends of America, doing heroic service in resisting the nation's enemies: Muammar Gaddafi (whom the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency aided when he overthrew the King of Libya in 1969), Saddam Hussein (who helped the U.S. fight Iran in the 1970s and 1980s), and Osama bin Laden (who fought against Communist Russia in Afghanistan in the 1970s). As they say, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.
So what Ted Cruz (or Jeb Bush or Donald Trump or whomever) is really saying when he suggests that Muslims commit acts of terrorism and Christians do not, is that he does not like Muslims (or, at very least, he's pandering to voters who don't like Muslims). As a very intelligent graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, in both cases with Latin honors, he likely knows exactly what he's saying. He probably also knows that the connection he is trying to draw between Islam and terrorism is largely sophistry. Europol tracks acts of terrorism across the European continent, and their most recent report (see page 42) reveals that only two of the 199 acts of terrorism in Europe in 2014 were religiously motivated. Separatist groups, radical left- and right-wing activists, and ethnic supremacy movements are all far more likely to be the perpetrators of terrorist acts. This has been true in each year since Europol began publishing this information in 2006. As one headline put it: "All Terrorists are Muslims...Except the 99.6% that Aren't." If we turn to the United States, the numbers are very similar. According to FBI figures, about 2.5% of terrorist acts in the United States between 2005 and 2015 were committed by Muslims. By way of contrast, Jewish extremists were responsible for 7% and Communists were responsible for 5%.
Why does this matter? Well, first of all, efforts to associate Islam with terrorism (even with the qualifier 'radical' added) are not only grossly misleading, but they are also bigotry. Further, such verbiage actually advances ISIS' agenda rather than confounding it. As The Guardian points out, ISIS wants the Western world to conceive of the conflict as being between Christianity and Islam. This aids with their recruiting, and moves them closer to their end goal, which is an end-of-days armageddon in which the world's residents slaughter one another, leaving only a few thousand "true believers" behind. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic candidates seem to recognize this, hence their reluctance to use the phrase "radical Islam" in Saturday's debates. We should learn more tomorrow, when Clinton is scheduled to deliver an address on ISIS. As to the GOP, The Guardian's conclusion is quite damning: "Amid all the warmongering, bigotry and crusading, only one salient fact emerged from the Republican reactions to the Paris attacks: none of the party's candidates are fit to govern in moments of international crisis." One hopes that the paper is wrong, and that whomever emerges from the Republican field—if they are elected—leaves behind the rhetoric and realizes that words do indeed matter. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
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