I don't know why, but apparently a lot of my friends start their day by listening to Rush Limbaugh. So my phone started ringing off the hook this morning with friends calling to tell me that Rush was taking me to the EIB woodshed over the speech I gave yesterday at the Take Back America conference in Washington.
The main thing he didn't like (other than my accent) was my saying that Democrats need to stop giving Republican elected officials a pass when they cynically use the very real terrorist threats this country is facing for political advantage.
The latest example of this reprehensible ploy came courtesy of John McCain. At a town hall meeting last week, he was asked if he was afraid al Qaeda might try to up the casualty rate in Iraq in an effort to tip the 2008 election against him.
"Yes, I worry about it," he responded. "And I know they pay attention because of the intercepts we have of their communications."
Are these the same intercepts that gave him the information that Iran is training al-Qaeda? McCain has a habit of being absolute and referring to specific sources (intercepts, the media, "common knowledge") when he is peddling absolute fabrications.
This habit is as loathsome as it is laughable. And Democrats need to have zero tolerance for this kind of blatant politicizing of terrorism.
As I said in my speech, it's one thing to have remarks like that delivered by the likes of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh -- they are, after all, little more than toxic curiosities (I'm sure Rush's phone started ringing to alert him to that one; or maybe he secretly enjoys watching speeches at progressive conferences). But we need to have a very different standard when it comes to the United States Congress -- and Democrats should introduce censure motions (they are after all in the majority, remember?) of any member who makes these kinds of outrageous statements.
They gave them a pass in 2004, when they let Sen. Orrin Hatch get away with claiming that terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry," and then-Speaker Denny Hastert get away with saying al Qaeda would be more successful under a Democratic administration.
And they gave them a pass in 2006, when, in the stretch run of the midterm campaign, the GOP launched a-vote-for-Democrats-is-a-vote-for-Osama ad campaign, featuring bin Laden saying that 9/11 was "nothing compared to what you will see next" -- and President Bush said of Iraq, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election... My gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave."
Democrats are letting it happen again in 2008. Look what transpired -- or, more accurately, didn't transpire -- after Rep. Steve King made his vile assertion that al-Qaeda "will be dancing in the streets" if Barack Obama wins. Rep. Jan Schakowsky took to the floor of the House, denouncing King's comments as "nothing more than a smear campaign... I urge all my colleagues to join me in condemning these hateful remarks."
But Schakowsky's call to arms quickly evaporated and King has gone on his merry, unrepentant way, joined now by John McCain -- who worries that the terrorists are out to sabotage his campaign, and who thinks nothing of repeatedly conjuring up an utterly false connection between Iran and al-Qaeda. The better to scare you with, my friends.
Republicans insist on having their terrorist threats both ways. McCain fears the terrorists will launch more attacks to undermine him. And Limbaugh, in what he called "a special aside" to me, claimed: "al-Qaeda doesn't want any violence until after the election. They're trying to push the whole concept of terror on to the back burner so that Americans will think that there's no terror threat, and thus be more inclined to elect a liberal Democrat. Make no mistake about it, Arianna, our enemies would love to see either of these two Democrats, Hillary or Obama, elected."
Thanks for the tip, Rush -- and for reminding us all how important it is that Democrats finally get the zero tolerance message.
Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariannahuff