The GOP has long been perceived by the mainstream media and a large percentage of the public as the best party for national security because they are “tough.” The cold, hard reality is that the GOP is tough but stupid. That GOP stupidity masks an underlying weakness on terror that has unwittingly helped our enemies for many years. As we’ve discussed here before, the incompetence of the George W. Bush Administration cost the country dearly in Iraq and allowed Osama Bin Laden to successfully escape after the attacks of 9/11.
The Republican party’s tough but stupid anti-terrorism policies persist until the present day and has once again come into sharper focus in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris. That recent incompetence has focused on the hysteria surrounding refugees of the Syrian Civil War.
What the Republicans don’t seem to realize is that no Syrians or refugees were among the perpetrators of the Paris attacks. Instead, all of the terrorists were E.U. nationals. The Syrian passport found at the scene of the one of the attacks was forged and according to the German intelligence service, was a “false flag” designed to whip up hostility towards Syrian refugees.
Unfortunately, as part of his ongoing reign of error, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts took the bait from ISIS and came out in opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Nebraska. Ricketts has a pattern and practice of latching onto every faux outrage generated by the right wing media and the GOP. As one Republican insider once told me on background: “Ricketts is a true believer conservative.”
Despite Ricketts’ irrational fear of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the Paris attacks, two resettlement agencies here in Nebraska said that they would be willing to settle Syrian refugees provided they gain clearance and choose to live in Nebraska. Both the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha and Lincoln-based Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska showed great courage and patriotism in rejecting this irrational hysteria in their willingness to help out helpless victims of ISIS terrorism.
Ricketts’ unfounded fear of Syrian refugees makes no sense since it is very difficult for these refugees to get into the U.S. in the first place. Before they can be settled in the U.S., Syrian refugees must go through a rigorous vetting process conducted by the United Nations Commission for Refugees and no less than five federal agencies. This screening process can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months.
This probing and lengthy vetting process works. According to the Economist, 750,000 refugees have settled in U.S. since 9/11. Not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.
Ricketts’ (and 30 other governors’) hostility to the victims of terrorism plays into the hands of ISIS. The enemy wants the U.S. and it’s allies to isolate and stigmatize Muslims, in order to radicalize them. This tough but stupid policy of barring Syrian refugees will be good for ISIS recruiting. It’s simply not smart for Ricketts and the other Republican governors to reinforce the false narrative from ISIS that the U.S. and the West are hostile to Muslims.
The Republicans aren’t only displaying a weakness on terror at the state level, they have also been craven on the federal level. There is currently pending in Congress a bill with bi-partisan support that would bar those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing pistols, powerful military style assault rifles and other firearms. This legislation was originally introduced by the Bush Administration in 2007.
Unfortunately, the GOP and the NRA are blocking the passage of this common sense legislation in the Congress. As bill co-sponsor Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said: “”I think this is a no-brainer. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun.” Nevertheless, when asked about whether he supported this bill, new House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn’t say that he backed it. Apparently, the GOP is more interested in pandering to the gun manufacturers than defending the U.S.
The GOP’s stance on terrorism is simply disgraceful and weak. They are not tough on terrorism. As President Obama aptly said: “”These are the same folks often times that say they’re so tough that just talking to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or staring down ISIL (ISIS) or using some additional rhetoric will solve the problem — and they’re scared of widows and three-year-old orphans.”
The reality here is that we Democrats are the true party of national security. This is a winning issue for us in 2016. It is the Republican Party – in the words of former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson – that is: “materially undermining the war against terrorism and making a challenging situation worse.” We need to take the offensive and point out to the voters that it was President Obama who brought Osama Bin Laden to justice. We need to let the voters know that it is the Democratic Party that is best suited to keeping America safe.