Sarah Palin's contradictory and nonsensical answer on what constitutes a terrorist is being thoroughly fisked online. Her claim that William Ayers is a terrorist but an abortion clinic bomber is not leaves a lot to be desired intellectually, which begs an important follow-up: what would her view of someone who has a record of targeting both abortion clinics and non-natal personnel and infrastructure? I'm talking about Eric Robert Rudolph, the "Olympic Centennial Park Bomber" who was also convicted of attacks on two abortion clinics and a lesbian nightclub. He was a far worse "terrorist" than William Ayers ever was, in both scope of physical damage (Rudolph left a trail of destruction that left 2 people dead, and 120 injured), national psychological trauma (a five-year manhunt shrouded in uncertainty that led to Rudolph's arrest in the North Carolina mountains) and eventual prison sentence (Rudolph got life, Ayers' case was dismissed). The Olympic bombing was undoubtedly one of the most audacious acts of international terror during the 90's, not just for the human toll, but also the psychological and visual effect which left Atlanta and the international community on edge for the rest of the games. I'm not defending Ayer's actions or involvement in the Weather Underground, but the context and breadth of impact matters here. Rudolph was indeed, as Attorney General John Ashcroft said in 2003, "the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list," a stature Ayers never even came close to. As to whether abortion clinic bomber Rudolph was a terrorist, I'll leave that characterization to Alberto Gonzalez:
"The many victims of Eric Rudolph's terrorist attacks in Atlanta and Birmingham can rest assured that Rudolph will spend the rest of his life behind bars," said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. "The best interests of justice are served by resolution of this case and by the skillful operation that secured the dangerous explosives buried in North Carolina."
The overarching question for Sarah Palin is: would you consider the Olympic Park Bombing an act of terror but the abortion clinic attacks in Birmingham and Atlanta as well as on the nightclub as simply ordinary acts of violence? Would this make Rudolph only a quasi-terrorist?
And what would she say to one of Rudolph's victims who survived the deadly 1998 bombing at the New Woman All Women Health Care in Birmingham:
Before, his wife could see through both of her blue-green eyes to read, her favorite pastime. She could go for a long walk with her dogs, Cassidy, Eska and Tex; she could put in five miles on a treadmill. In the morning, she'd put on her colorful scrubs because she could go to work as a nurse. At the end of the day, she could look in the mirror and see Emily Anne, not a plastic eye and countless scars and pockmarks and skin grafts and other reminders of an explosion she doesn't remember.
"I look in the mirror and it's not really my face," Emily says. "You think, 'Who's that? Who have I become?' "
The answers are nothing this soft-spoken 46-year-old woman with long, draping brown hair could have ever imagined: A cause celebre for the abortion rights movement but also a symbol, a person, for extremist abortion protesters to aim their words of disdain. A woman honored as a heroine with awards for courage but one who would gladly go back to a life of anonymity. A victim of a domestic terrorist now overshadowed by an international war against terrorism.
Terror is terror, no matter what the target. And to create special carve-outs to the definition of terrorism in order to placate a political constituency further calls into question Palin's fitness to truly put country instead of politics (not to mention common sense) first.