Rachel Maddow Asks Her MSNBC Audience: 'Is It OK' to Ridicule al Qaeda?

Check out this curious query from MSNBC cable show host Rachel Maddow on her show June 21 while describing a video statement released by Adam Gadahn, the so-called "American al Qaeda" --

MADDOW: I know that al Qaeda is al Qaeda, right? But is it OK to point out that they're ridiculous, that their propaganda is inadvertently funny, as in ha ha I'm laughing at you?

Consider for a moment what Maddow is doing here -- she is asking permission of her audience, which also occupies the fringe left, if it's "OK" to ridicule al Qaeda, to laugh at them even.

Suffice it to say, the notion of destroying al Qaeda never gets out of committee with this crowd.

Begs the question -- why would Maddow even ask? My theory -- old habits are hard to break. The same audience watching Maddow has spent most of the last decade blaming Bush, Cheney, et al., for terrorism -- instead of the more obvious culprit, al Qaeda.

The fact that Obama's been president nearly a year and a half doesn't change this habit of thought. Notice how often liberals and Democrats still blame the Bush administration for all manner of evil coming down the pike, such as the BP oil spill, economic stagnation, massive government debt, etc.

I'd be inclined to give Maddow the benefit of a doubt, but her track record undermines that inclination.

Such as back in December when UN ambassador Susan Rice, not exactly a Tom Delay Republican, interrupted Maddow to point out that the threat from al Qaeda is not "hypothetical."

Or a month earlier after the Fort Hood bloodbath when Maddow questioned whether the mass murder of Americans by a radical Muslim yelling "Allahu Akbar!" while he gunned them down constituted "terrorism." Yet after abortion doctor George Tiller was shot to death in May 2009, Maddow quickly described it as "terrorism."

Or in February 2009 when Maddow oversold a former Guantanamo guard's allegations of abuse, from a man who promptly returned to well-deserved obscurity and hasn't been heard from since.

Never let it be said, though, that Maddow doesn't believe in the presumption of innocence -- which she does for captured al Qaeda but not for George Bush and company, as shown in November 2008.

My favorite example of Maddow's tendency to provide lip service in her condemnation of al Qaeda came in August 2008, back when she was still working for Air America Radio.

One of her guests that month was Jonathan Mahler, author of "The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power" and a writer for the New York Times Magazine.

Mahler was on Maddow's show Aug. 6 to discuss the trial by military commission of Salim Hamdan, bin Laden's bodyguard and driver (link here for audio) --

MADDOW: What exactly was he convicted of? I felt like there was a lot of sort of loosy-goosy hinting today in the coverage about the fact that he had these missiles in his vehicle when he was actually apprehended by US forces. As far as I understand it, he wasn't convicted of anything that had anything to do with those missiles. He was convicted of this material support for terrorism charge.

MAHLER: That's right, that's right. He was, in fact, captured with two surface-to-air missiles in the trunk of his car. He had basically, what had happened is that he had just left his wife and daughter, his wife was actually eight months pregnant at the time, and he had left his wife and daughter at the border of Pakistan. They were basically fleeing the al Qaeda compound and he was captured then sort of on his way back into Afghanistan with these two missiles in his car. But they were not really part of the conviction. I think the defense argued that there was a civil war going on in Afghanistan at the time and you can't say that he was going to be using these missiles against US forces (with mild sarcasm). What he was ...

MADDOW (interrupting): Although it should be noted, it's not like the Northern Alliance or the Taliban had an awesome air force, if they really were surface-to-air missiles.

MAHLER (laughing): Good point, Rachel! Good point!

MADDOW: Unless we're talking magic carpets here! (laughs) Yeah, all right. Carry on.

MAHLER: But what he was convicted of was material support, so basically what he was convicted of was driving bin Laden around in the aftermath, in particular, of say the 1998 embassy bombings in east Africa, the US embassies that were bombed in east Africa by al Qaeda in 1998. And as bin Laden's driver, Hamdan presumably helped him elude capture in the wake of those attacks. (emphasis added and again)

MADDOW: So literally what he was convicted of was not quitting his job.

MAHLER (pauses, then laughs): That's one way of looking at it, certainly.  

MADDOW: Right? I mean, not that they're saying there was anything criminal about his driving.

MAHLER: They, what they did was, they convicted a driver of driving.

MADDOW: Yeah! 

From Maddow's perspective, Hamdan was guilty of nothing more than "not quitting his job." A job, not incidentally, that entailed protecting bin Laden as he prepared for 9/11, abandoning his pregnant wife and child on the Afghan-Pakistan border after 9/11, then rushing back into Afghanistan with surface-to-air missiles for use against non-existent aircraft of the Northern Alliance.

And if only John Wilkes Booth had given up acting, he'd never have been in Ford's Theater that night.

At the end of the same segment on June 21, Maddow thanked her guest, former Petraeus adviser and author David Kilcullen, a native Australian, and alluded to a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed three Aussie soldiers and injured seven others.

Maddow comes across as oddly upbeat in mentioning this to Kilcullen, as can be seen in second part of the embedded video. 

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts