It's one thing to avoid the "terrorist" label when reporting on Ft. Hood suspect Major Nidal Hasan. It's quite another to say that those who do use it are making a political calculation to "paint the Democrats as soft terror." Yet that's what MSNBC's Rachel Maddow insisted on her Nov. 11 broadcast.
Maddow launched into a minute-and-a-half soliloquy on why it is bad for the Democratic Party when commentators label Hasan a "terrorist." She even attempted to make the case on Hasan's behalf against a terrorism label. Who needs a legal team when you have friends like Maddow and Chris Matthews, who fretted over the legality of Hasan's al Qaeda communications?
"Remember this one? Yes, it is the old ‘paint the Democrats as soft on terror' routine," Maddow said. "But in order to play that politicizing terrorism, anti-Democratic greatest hits, the Fort Hood case has to be terrorism. Now, regardless of how you feel about the political issue of politicizing terrorism, it's worth asking was Fort Hood, technically speaking, terrorism? It's not just a political question. It's not just a judgment call. It's not just a matter of taste. It's a question to which there is an answer, a legal answer."
Hasan was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and, according to Maddow, because those charges don't indicate terrorism, the terrorism characterization should be avoided.
"And the charges today didn't include anything related to terrorism," Maddow said. "Terrorism is not just conceptual political jargon. It's a legal term and it has interestingly changed over the past few years. In order for something to be legally considered terrorism, do you have to be taking instructions from a terrorist group? Do you have to have some sort of clear political motive behind the violence? Is it about the way that you commit the crime, what sort of weapons that you use in doing? Is it about how many people that you kill in your crime? Is it about the specific type of people you target, whether they're civilian or military?"
However, as Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained, these charges are not set in stone and could change, which could altogether ruin Maddow's argument against branding Hasan a terrorist. But that wasn't stopping Maddow from sanctimoniously contending that using the word terrorism is nothing more than a strategic political maneuver and that it is an indictment of those making them, not the man accused of killing 13 people and wounding 29.
"If you're interested in more than just making political hay out of the Fort Hood case, these are the sort of legitimate questions you would want to ask before labeling this or any case an instance of terrorism," Maddow said. "Those who are calling this terrorism or making their case in large part because Maj. Hasan is a Muslim and because he's alleged to have said ‘God is great' before the shootings. And while it might make for exciting politics to argue murders by committed religious Muslims are presumptively terrorist acts, those exciting political allegations actually say a lot more about the people making them than they do about the real character of the tragedy at Fort Hood and how we, as a country, should respond to it."