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Amygdala Politics: Will ISIS Be 2016's Ebola?

05/10/2015 08:29 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2016

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By Mark Green

With Matalin interviewing Nader in a surprising love-fest, we air our 200th show. Mary & Ron Reagan ask: a) is Geller a Paul Revere or arsonist hiding behind the 1st Amendmen? b) will "ISIS is Here!" become the rallying cry of the Right? Then: Oh God, it's Huckabee!

*Geller & Garland. Resolved, Pam Geller's anti-Muhammad cartoon contest was legally protected but also morally stupid... or does the 1st Amendment immunize a critic from criticism?

Mary insists that the only issue is Geller's constitutional rights since those are "our first principles. By stoning women and decimating Christians, jihadists are the only ones who are hurting their religion." Ron counters that it's not either/or. The two ISIS-inspired jihadists are of course responsible for their attempted attack but it's also crazy, albeit less murderously, for Geller to engage in conduct designed to inflame millions of Muslims to believe that America hates Islam. Mary assures us that Muslims "do not think that way." She adds, "how is what she's doing any different than Amadinejad speaking a Columbia or the UN?"

Host: True, Geller's and Amadinejad's right to 'speak' and offend is no different... but let's be honest: first, we don't get to choose the leaders of another country; second, there's no danger that Columbia students or UN members will respond by killing the then elected leader of Iran; third, Geller's driving motivation is not Constitutionalism but Islamophobia. Or did I miss her earlier career as an ACLU lawyer?

To defend herself, Geller asks whether it's fair to blame a raped woman because she wore a short dress. A better analogy is someone who leaves kerosene-soaked logs and matches in a school and then denies any blame when some truant burns down the school. Though Mary refuses to make a judgment on the content of Geller's "contest", Bill O'Reilly calls it "stupid". If someone barks something anti-semitic, my first reaction is not to question his/her right to be an idiot but his/her idiocy.

And what if that one Garland police officer with a handgun hadn't taken down the two attackers with assault weapons -- and scores of her attendees had been killed? Would Geller have had any regrets? For those searching for false parallels, let us recall that Charlie Hebdo is an ongoing publication that satirically mocks all religions, not a specific organization devoted to broad-brushing all Muslims and only Muslims. I have two personal suggestions: let's all condemn murder, not all Muslims; and everyone should have a sense of consequence.

We listen to Fox's Greta van Susteren say in alarmist tones, "Make no mistake about it - ISIS is here...committing brutal acts." Here we go again, thinks the Host. Beheadings and lone wolf attacks are disgusting and frightening but not the existential threat of the Soviets in the 50s. Will Susteren and others start hyping such incidents to scare folks into voting their fears rather than their hopes? That's happened before, from McCarthyism in the '50s to Nixon's law-and-order meme in '68 to in the scare of Ebola-at-our-border in '14, which indeed did successfully frame that mid-term election.

Mary doesn't bite, dismissing such concerns by comparing the benevolent idealism of young people in the '60s with the malevolent search for "idealism" by angry jihadists today. Kids will be kids. Ron worries that political fear-mongering will happen if there are more such incidents here (probably especially if it happens in swing states: ISIS in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina...because of Obama and Clinton!) Then the amygdalas of our collective brain will get a workout.

*Carville and Nader. They call in to congratulate BSN on our 200th show and are somehow convinced to comment on current events in the process.

James thinks that the biggest threat to Hillary's reelection is the public impulse against third terms, though Obama's uptick recently is good news. And among all those Republicans who will run, he agrees with the commentariet that only three have a realistic chance of being nominated - Bush, Walker and Rubio.

Nader -- who of course ran four times for president as a third party candidate, unlike Senator Bernie Sanders this year -- thinks that the Vermonter's entry will positively expand the conversation in the primary "but then in April he'll just endorse the corporatist and militarist Clinton" without leaving much an imprint. Then this exchange: Mary: "I've always been a fan since I was 13 when I thought you were hot and read Unsafe At Any Speed and it helped inspire me to go into politics." She asks why his model of public affairs "has been so much more inspirational to young people" than Obama's appeal? "I respected them," Ralph says, "and gave them major responsibility and enabled them to have become authors in their 20s... And I didn't any axes to grind and so didn't have to speak out of both sides of my mouth. They [young people] don't to be a part of any of that and why so many are withdrawing from politics. But it's their country to lose."

*GOP Field Grows. Host agrees not to refer derisively to the "Clown Car" of candidates... but given the number of Republicans out-extreming each other, he may occasionally refer to the "Clown Bus."

Thoughts about Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, all of whom announce their candidacies this week? And about Christie who announces that he's not deterred by indictments of his top aides for the Bridge-gate scandal?

Mary thinks that Fiorina has real talent and potential, not because she's a woman in an all-male field with a likely female Democratic nominee but "because of her free-market principles." Nor does she think Fiorina is particularly running against Hillary (although as one wag has pointed out, using Biden's devastating formulation against Giuliani, "Fiorina speeches are basically a subject, a verb, and Hillary Clinton."

Ron assumes that she could potentially be a VP nominee because the GOP might strategically want a woman on the ticket; and he doubts Carson can go anywhere because of his prideful inexperience ("I'm not a politician" = "I won't be a president) and bizarre rhetoric (Obama a "psychopath"). The implication: this brilliant neuro- surgeon perhaps should first work on his own brain.

Both are underwhelmed by Huckabee though for different reasons. While he's certainly a charmer/talker (what is in the water in Hope, Arkansas?), Mary sees him as a "big government Republican" with a record of high taxes that primary voters won't like. Ron thinks that his anti-Beyonce evangelism -- in 1998, Huckabee vowed to "take back this nation for Christ" -- won't play well in later primaries or in a General Election.

They also agree that Christie's not a top contender because of the albatross of scandals and, adds Ron, "there are questions about his temperament." Like what? "He loses his temper which is bad in a candidate and a president."

*On Tom Brady. Will the NFL's deflating report about his knowledge or role lead to any significant punishment? One or a few game suspension, Ron assumes, because the incident is an embarrassment to a brand that's suffered many embarrassments this year - "and he's a cheater. Period."

Mary thinks its ridiculous to punish someone because of other scandals or bad things Belichick has done or because Brady and his wife are so good-looking, rich and famous.

Host: Mary's onto something. Whatever commentators or reports say, people basically care more about on-field results than official reports. Here in NY, fans were down on Alex Rodriguez because of his admitted steroid use...but when this week he hit his 661st home run and passed Willie Mays as #4 on the all-time list, fans cheered.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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