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Louis Untermeyer


The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

June 12, 2003

Pimental Patrol

Today is a big day because the Muse introduces a regular feature: the Pimental Patrol. Quick, someone quell the excitement before it gets out of hand.

O. Ricardo Pimental (I do not know what the O stands for) is a columnist for the Arizona Republic, or Arizona Repulsive, as it is affectionately known in the Valley of the Sun. Pimental is a reliable liberal, so reliable that after reading his column fairly regularly for the past several months, I can't think of a single issue on which he disagrees with the standard liberal orthodoxy. I may be wrong about that, but assuming my memory is correct and it's true, that's no big deal. The man has convictions, and he's sincere and consistent.

But he's also wrong about a great number of things, so I offer the Pimental Patrol to correct some of his errors and debunk some of his thinking. Do not mistake this for a personal attack on Pimental. I've never met the man, but I'm sure he's a fine, upstanding, nice gentleman who I would not hesitate to invite over to the homestead for some backyard barbecue. The Pimental Patrol is all about debating ideas, not slandering good people. 

His column appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday - I may discuss every column in the Occasional Muse, just one or maybe even none, because sometimes he writes about something fairly innocuous, like charitable giving or some such feel-good story that only a block-of-ice-for-a-heart conservative could find fault with (please, no preachy e-mail about ending sentences with a preposition - that rule is so history).

His column on Tuesday, June 10 is not that kind of column. He asks a provocative question: Is Eric Rudolph, the suspected bomber of two abortion clinics, a gay bar, and Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics, a "Christian terrorist?"

Pimental points out that Rudolph may have "launched his attacks from religious belief, specifically those possessed by members of White supremacist group Christian Identity," which you've probably never heard of until now (I hadn't). Even worse, some in the town in which Rudolph grew up expressed "admiration, loyalty and Christian solidarity" with Rudolph. Finally, he says that "some have theorized that he remained free so long because he was given aid, comfort and sanctuary."

Notice that Pimental never once says anything about Rudolph's confessed religious beliefs. These theories are based largely on supposition and Rudolph's choice of targets, and that he may have had help from like-minded Christian white supremacists.

But yet we don't label Rudolph a Christian terrorist, because "we count Christians among friends, families and acquaintances. So we know better than to paint with so broad a brush."

Can you tell what's coming next? That's right. "But because Islam and Arab culture are considered 'alien,' we feel perfectly free to broadly smear Muslims and their religion."

Pimental believes that we Americans have been demonizing Muslims, making them "the new Japanese." Sure, he concedes, "lunacy in the name of Islam does exist and can be the current on which terrorists are driven. But not all Muslims subscribe to such lunacy. We are apparently intent on vilifying them as a people anyway."

To support his claim that Americans hate Muslims, Pimental cites an obscure comic making one dumb joke on Comedy Central, one cartoon David Letterman displayed on his show, John Ashcroft persuading Congress to keep illegal aliens detained "because they might be terrorists," a Sikh being shot and killed in Phoenix last month (the individual was wearing a turban and likely mistaken for an Arab), and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that said so in a report that was thoroughly debunked by columnist Michelle Malkin (see here and here).

Arguing by anecdote is not very convincing, especially in a country that welcomes all faiths. Pimental compares our attitudes towards Muslims today with American attitudes towards the Japanese in the past, but I don't see Muslims being rounded up and confined to concentration camps. How many mosques have burned? How many enraged white racists have beaten or killed Arab-looking people? I see the opposite - a huge plea for tolerance, from President Dubya on down, a plea I think most Americans have responded to. Isolated incidents do not accurately reflect the opinions and beliefs of a country with nearly 300 million people. As tragic as any murder is, for whatever reason, it does not prove that all or even most Americans want to kill all Muslims or Arabs.

I think most Americans realize these terrorists do not practice true Islam and are insulting their faith, just as Eric Rudolph insults Christianity (if, indeed, he considers himself a Christian). Americans know that Muslim terrorists are the enemy, not Islam, and not Muslims - just those Muslims who wish to destroy America and murder Americans. They are a tiny minority of Muslims. Some would even doubt they are Muslims, but if that's so, then why have human rights groups and liberals like Pimental insisted that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay get prayer rugs and Korans? 

But let's say Rudolph is a "Christian terrorist." So what if he is? Does that brand all Christians as terrorists, the same way Pimental thinks Americans brand all Muslims as terrorists? Not at all. It means Rudolph is evil, stupid and wrong, just like Muslim terrorists are evil, stupid and wrong, just like atheist terrorists are evil, stupid and wrong, just like any terrorist is evil, stupid and wrong. The sad truth is that terrorism is a multi-faith, equal opportunity activity.

Pimental's Thursday column is standard liberal spin that is laughably easy to unmask. Many observers believe the Democrat Party is in trouble. It has nine candidates attacking each other rather than President Dubya; the public thinks they are soft on national security, preferring Republicans by huge margins; and Dubya's tax cuts just got signed into law, and when Dems complained that people who don't pay income taxes didn't get income tax relief (after complaining the tax cut cost too much), Senate Republicans responded by passing more tax cuts (the House is set to pass more). About the only thing the Dems are doing well is obstructing a few of Dubya's judges. That's not a very compelling campaign platform.

Pimental thinks this public Democrat infighting is just democracy. "A lot of folks, in and out of the party, have been making much over how allegedly fragmented is the Democratic Party. Entered into evidence: the crowded field of presidential aspirants and their fractious policy disagreements... Guess what? We used to call this debate. In this case, debate for what the party will stand for in the next election and beyond."

Pimental has a point here. What's going on in the Democrat primary is pretty much what went in the Republican primary in 1999 and 2000. There were several candidates (Governor Dubya, John McCain, Gary Bauer, Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan [before he left the Party], Alan Keyes - those are the names I remember off the top of my head). They all disagreed, bickered and argued while Al Gore slugged it out with Bill Bradley, and let's face it, that wasn't much of a contest.

In other words, what the Dems are going through is normal politics - a crowded political primary. But Pimental can't stop there - he has to be wrong about something. See, at least the Dems foster dissent - those nasty Republicans are so mean they won't allow any! "OK, let's listen in a bit to the raging policy debates within the GOP. That sound you hear is the melodious chirping of crickets. There is no discernible debate. By gum, Republicans are going to go out on a limb and stick with the guy with the high approval ratings."

In other words, the Republicans are supporting a popular president as he prepares to run for re-election, same as the Democrats supported Bill Clinton (a "guy with high approval ratings") as he ran for re-election in 1996. Pimental is taking normal politics and turning it into some evil plot by Republicans to quash all dissent.

Apparently, Pimental is not aware of Republican Dissenter-in-Chief John McCain. How has he been silenced? Tom DeLay, the powerful House Majority Leader, recently criticized President Dubya's "road map to peace" in the Middle East. Has he been punished? Republican moderates like Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich opposed President Dubya's initial tax plan, and they seem okay. Sounds like dissent and diversity of opinion are alive and well in the GOP, but if Pimental sees it, he's not letting on.

Pimental is spinning into a sinister conspiracy a party trying to develop a unified message behind a popular president. Never mind that he must do the same thing with Clinton's re-election in 1996 to be consistent. Consistency isn't his concern - defeating the hated Dubya is. He doesn't have to be right - just victorious.

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