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The Shameless Hypocrisy of Peter King

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No, not that Peter King, that Peter King (who seems to call himelf "Pete," perhaps to distinguish himself from the more famous other Peter King). Obviously.

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Rep. Peter King (R-NY) -- "America's Worst Congressman," according to Alex Massie, who may very well be right -- is one of the leading Republican point men on terrorism and the "war on terror," that is, one of the leading Republican attackers and smearers of President Obama. He's an ardent promoter of torture, and has virtually nothing of positive value to add to the war on terror discussion. There's certainly nothing in the way of constructive criticism, just the militant right-wing line spoken with a distinct New York accent. Basically, he's a bit like Cheney, only seemingly much more stupid.

For example.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos yesterday on Good Morning America to "name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix" America's policy on terrorism, he responded with this nugget of nonsense:

I think one main thing would be to -- just himself to use the word terrorism more often.

That's it. Nothing more.

As Steve Benen notes, this is "a terrific example of why Republicans aren't taken more seriously when it comes to the substance of public policy... One gets the sense Republicans won't be truly satisfied until Obama develops a tic-like affinity for Bush-era rhetoric." Which is amusing, isn't it? One of the common Republican criticisms of Obama, after all, is that he's all talk. Well, here's a leading Republican saying that the "one main thing" the president can do to wage the war on terror more effectively is... talk, and specifically to talk terrorism, as if American can best protect itself with rhetoric.

Now, I'm all for acknowledging reality, and, nuance notwithstanding, terrorism is terrorism, but King's criticism really is utter nonsense. It's not like Obama is opposed to using the word, and it's not like Obama is hiding behind vague language. If anything, he shows a far more mature and nuanced understanding of reality, and of the reality of the threats America faces, than, say, Peter King, who sees the world in black-and-white, us-versus-them terms.

But, for King, and for Republicans generally, it's all about attacking Obama and the Democrats, and scoring political points, not contributing anything meaningful or helpful -- or supporting their commander-in-chief in a time of war. And in attacking Obama over the use of a single word, King exposed just how lame, desperate, and intellectually bankrupt he and his party are.

But that's not all. As Jonathan Chait notes at his new (must-read) blog at The New Republic, citing Massie, King was once (and may still be) an ardent supporter of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (IRA), the mass-murdering terrorist organization that plagued Northern Ireland for so long, from 1969 to 1997, as well as of its political wing, Sinn Fein. (The IRA abandoned its armed campaign for Northern Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom in 2005. While it is still considered a terrorist organization in the U.K., and while it is an illegal organization in Ireland, it is now largely a non-violent political movement. Two offshoot groups, including the so-called Real IRA, still engage in terrorism.) Massie, quoting a New York Sun article:

In 1980, Mr. D'Amato, then the senator-elect, fulfilled a campaign pledge and went to Belfast on a fact-finding trip, taking Messrs. King and Dillon with him. It was the start of Mr. King's long entanglement with the IRA, and he took to it with the zeal of a convert.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group's publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.

Where he is now militantly anti-terrorist, he was then militantly pro-terrorist. It all depends on context, that is, on his own biases:

* Irish terrorists: good.
* Muslim terrorists: bad.

He could argue, of course, that what really matters is what the terrorists are fighting for. Americans, after all, admire the revolutionaries who fought for American independence from Britain and revile the revolutionaries who, say, support Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. And there's something to that. Not all revolutionaries are the same, just as not all terrorists are the same. But if that's what King means, he should just come out and say so. Instead, he just comes across as a shameless hypocrite who supports terrorism by his own kind and opposes terrorism against his own kind. That makes him a partisan, and consistent in his biases, but also an enthusiastic supporter of terrorism when it suits him. (To be fair, he did turn on the IRA after 9/11, calling on it to disarm and support the peace process. His rationale was not so much a personal shift to anti-terrorism, though that was perhaps part of it, but anti-Americanism among the Irish.)

And, lest we forget, the terrorism he supported was directed not at an enemy of America but at an ally and long-time friend of America, not at some oppressive regime but at a major liberal democracy, at the founder of liberal democracy. I understand that the IRA and its sympathizers saw Britain as an oppressive and unjust state, the British government as an oppressive and unjust regime, and the British military as the primary agent of oppression and injustice of the Catholic population in Nothern Ireland, but the IRA committed atrocious acts of violence not just against political and military targets but against civilian ones as well.

And Peter King was apparently all for such violence, and all for what the IRA was about. Should he not be held to account for what the IRA did? Either way, he should not be lecturing Obama about how to conduct the war on terror, not least when all he has to offer is stupidity.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)

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