It’s happening again: the hard men of the Republican party are scared to death of Syrian refugees. They’ve turned it into a meme and a campaign issue. The best response I’ve seen thus far came from President Obama:
“These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” he said. “First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
I’ve already written about David Vitter’s attempts to use this as a wedge issue in the Gret Stet Goober race. It’s unclear if it will work or if voters will give Diaper Dave a wedgy, but Team Vitter took it one step further yesterday. Here’s what Gambit’s Clancy DuBos had to say about it:
I got a phone call this afternoon from Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand regarding an email he received today (Wednesday, Nov. 18) from the Louisiana Republican Party. The email, like U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s entire gubernatorial campaign these days, falsely and deliberately tries to foster mass hysteria about Syrian refugees in Louisiana. It is, in my opinion, the most irresponsible, desperate, even despicable piece of campaign hysteria I have ever seen — and I’ve seen a lot. Worst of all, the GOP has the gall to solicit money at the end of the email.
“Somebody’s going to get killed” because of this kind of thing, Normand said to me. He’s right. Catholic Charities, the arm of the Archdiocese of New Orleans that is helping resettle Syrian refugees in Louisiana, already has received threats, which Louisiana State Police Supt. Mike Edmondson confirmed yesterday (Nov. 17).
Ironically, David Vitter’s wife Wendy is the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which means she also is the lawyer for Catholic Charities — the people who are bringing in refugees. Apparently the senator is so desperate that he doesn’t even mind throwing his wife and Archbishop Gregory Aymond under the bus for a few cheap political points.
For the record, the Syrian man that Vitter and the GOP say is “missing” and “unaccounted for” is totally accounted for. He had to fill out multiple forms before moving around in Baton Rouge, let alone before moving to Washington D.C. to be with his family. (See The Advocate‘s story HERE confirming all this.) It’s noteworthy that The Advocate story came out a full day before the GOP sent the hysterical email, which means they had to have known they were spreading lies in order to foster hysteria — and raise money.
This whole episode shows just how desperate Vitter has become. Apparently there is no lie he won’t tell, no line he won’t cross, no life he won’t put in jeopardy if that’s what it takes to win. He has been called “Bobby Jindal on steroids,” but that’s an understatement. He’s more like Frank Underwood on steroids.
I’ve said FU to Bitter Vitter many times over the years, but this is reprehensible even by his loathsome standards. It’s well documented that Vitter only values human life in vitro and doesn’t give a shit if his rhetoric leads to someone getting hurt. FU sideways, asswipe.
The country is in the throes of its latest bout of hysteria over THE OTHER. It’s nothing new in our history. We’ve had two red scares, repeated bouts of anti-immigrant hysteria, and dizzying flights of xenophobic frenzy since the founders were in knee-pants.
I’m on the record as a full-fledged member of the pro-immigration camp, but there’s a common sense approach to this problem that should satisfy most people except for vote hungry Republican politicians and unrepentant bigots. Only 2% of the immigrants are military age males between the age of 18-30. It is not unreasonable to assume that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh will try to infiltrate a few young fighters into our country. They’re not stupid, after all. That 2% should be subjected to an even more rigorous level of scrutiny before being granted entry. Is that method foolproof? Hell no, but it strikes me as an attempt to instill some common sense into the situation. As always, Charlie Pierce sums it up nicely at his joint.
The level of hysteria on the Right is reminiscent of the cosmic freak out after 9/11. The chickenhawks whipped up hysteria to suit their purposes, but the initial fear was not purely irrational. Who the hell wants to be blown up by some mook wearing a bomb belt? The difference this time is that the White House is trying to extinguish the xenophobic blaze, not adding fuel to the fire with inflammatory rhetoric. It’s a time when it’s good to have No Drama Obama as the Oval One.
The good news about the current hysteria is that it will eventually dissipate. It’s happened before. Remember the so-called Ebola crisis? Republican politicians and the MSM responded in a similar fashion, but eventually that wave of hysteria died with a whimper, not a bang. I even created an Ebola Hysteria category here at First Draft. It was last used over a year ago. This too will pass:
It’s time to circle back to the post title. In various forms, hysteria has been with us throughout our history. American hysteria often involves a toxic mixture of gullibility and xenophobia. Many people assume the worst of others, and believe who or what they want to believe i.e. Fox News. It’s why conspiracy theories are so popular in a country that’s never experienced a military coup. It’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that, as in the old Chevy teeevee commercial, hysteria is as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.