The Steve Schmidt Bombshell: How Will the Radical Right Respond?

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Pictured above is Steve Schmidt. I’ll explain his bombshell in a moment. Before I do, some background. Don’t worry, I’ll tie all this together before we’re done.

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Friday morning, while I was on Fox News’ The Strategy Room, a discussion erupted about Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the report issued by the DHS warning of domestic terrorism spurred on by the radical right — specifically perpetrated, the DHS fears, by Iraq war veterans who are disturbed or disgruntled or suffering from PTSD or furious at President Obama.

Let me just print here the explanation that Napolitano offered regarding the report and the warning:

The primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States. I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution.

Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.

We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.

I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel. I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the Deputy Secretary.

As the department responsible for protecting the homeland, DHS will continue to work with its state and local partners to prevent and protect against the potential threat to the United States associated with any rise in violent extremist activity.

The report itself is called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” and you can read the entire document here.

Sure, I think some of the language gives fodder to the radical right and, coming during the same week as the tea party rallies, was ill-timed: a needless needling of the soul-searching GOP, a party with more than whiff of desperation about it at the moment. I mean, kicking a dog when he’s down isn’t apt to make him more friendly and slobbering after he’s healed.

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That said, the idea that there couldn’t possibly be another Timothy McVeigh out there (remember, McVeigh was a veteran of Iraq War I) is just this side of ludicrous. Just wait until the next Oklahoma City strikes (it was 15 years ago tomorrow) and then we’ll discuss it.

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More to the point, I fear the language the radical right has been employing (here I refer you to a post I wrote on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s calls for secession) will indeed result in domestic violence of some kind or other, and perhaps even an attempt at political assassination. Which, if such a thing does occur, will ultimately be hung around the necks of the worst of the GOP extremists. Which would be a terrible outcome for all the obvious reasons.

Yet there is a less obvious reason why domestic terrorism or violence would be a terrible outcome: it would derail the efforts of a growing group of “reform Republicans” and “progressive Republicans” who really do hope to reshape and save their party. Now, I’m not going to change my party affiliation, but the more I get to know these people, the more I can see that these guys aren’t radical, aren’t crazy, aren’t apt to employ the kind of coded language that would induce domestic violence or terrorism. They’re moderates. They’re the inheritors of the remnants of the Republican Party of my parents and grandparents. They’re goals are easily digestible: government out of people’s pocketbooks, government out of people’s bedrooms.

And now they have an ally — someone who may infuriate the radical right as much as the Democrats do. His name is Steve Schmidt. He was Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager. And his endorsement of gay marriage (see the video below) in a speech to the Log Cabin Republicans (surely noticed by all of the GOP faithful) is absolutely a bombshell:

The question is whether Schmidt’s comments, combined with the airing of views of people like Meghan McCain, may set off a serious civil war within the party, one that could take any number of unforeseen directions. What we do not need, frankly, is a terrifying national political bloodbath.

So I’d love to shake Schmidt’s hand. What he has done is true patriotism — standing up for what one believes even if one knows it isn’t popular. Will Schmidt now have to kiss Rush’s ring? Don’t bet on it. He’s a profile in courage.

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Meanwhile, the caterwauling about Napolitano and the DHS report goes on. And now comes the kerfuffle over what Republican Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a speech to a local chamber of commerce. You’ll get all the information from this Rachel Maddow commentary:

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Never, never, never should a sitting US senator advocate the equivalent of a run on a bank — even if it’s just a quiet and intra-familial one. How awful that Sen. Burr should place his own wealth and well-being above those of all of his constituents. If he thinks the entire banking system of the US is about to fail, shouldn’t he take more patriotic action than “Mildred, get all our money out of the bank”?

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