The Pearl-Clutchers Normalizing Inflammatory Dog Whistles

As expected, last night Justin Amash held off a challenge from a corporatist Republican, Brian Ellis (though the margin was closer than polls predicted). What has the local punditry surprised, however, is Amash’s victory speech, where he attacked Ellis and former Congressman Crazy Pete Hoekstra, who endorsed Ellis.

AMASH VICTORY SPEECH: U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s win over 3rd District GOP primary challenger Brian Ellis wasn’t too surprising, but his victory speech was. Rather than simply celebrate, Amash reportedly refused to answer a concession phone call from Ellis and then unloaded on the businessman, who had run a TV ad calling him “Al Qaeda’s best friend” in Congress. “I ran for office to stop people like you,” Amash said to Ellis, who was not present. He also ripped former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who backed Ellis in a separate commercial. “I’m glad we can hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance,” he said of Hoekstra. (more >>)

I get that you’re supposed to give a happy unity speech after you win (though I personally don’t much care if MI Republicans rip themselves apart, and MI’s Republican Congressmen already broke protocol by offering no support to Amash and in Mike Rogers’ case giving big support for Ellis). But not only is Crazy Pete a disgrace, Ellis did try to gain traction by smearing Amash.

From the coverage, I think Amash was most pissed that Ellis and Hoekstra treated a vote Amash refused to cast to defund Planned Parenthood on constitutional grounds as a pro-choice vote.

But in an interview with Fox, Amash also called Ellis’ ad rather famously repeating a claim he’s al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress disgusting.

“I’m an Arab-American, and he has the audacity to say I’m Al-Queda’s best friend in congress. That’s pretty disgusting.”

This ad, which played (among other prominent ad buys) during the World Cup, really pissed me off.

Not only for the treatment of Gitmo as anything but a terrible moneypit, all in the hopes of maintaining some extra-legal space to sustain the notion of war rather than law. But especially for the notion that anything but lock-step support for counterproductive counterterrorism policies makes you a friend of al Qaeda.

And yes, especially the suggestion that one of Congress’ only Arab-American members (Amash’s parents are Palestinian and Syrian Christians) might therefore be an Islamic terrorist.

For 12 years — ever since Saxby Chambliss used a similar technique to take out Max Cleland — our political culture has tolerated ads that invoke terror to short-circuit any real political debate about how we fight it. Those ads get treated as business as usual. Win or lose the race and then make nice with your opponent.

That such ads are still (were ever!) considered acceptable political discourse — that Amash, and not Ellis, is getting the scolds — damns our political system. By treating any debate over the efficacy of counterterrorism policy as terrorism itself, we foreclose potentially far more effective ways of keeping the country safe and potentially far smarter ways to spend limited resources. (Crazy Pete, for example, fear-mongered about moving Gitmo detainees to a prison threatened with closure in Michigan, thereby losing Michigan jobs, but also committing the US to continue to spend exorbitant amounts to keep our gulag open.)

At some point, it needs to be okay to call out such bullshit. Because until then, we’ll never be able to actually debate the best way to keep the country safe.

12 replies
  1. Mick Savage says:

    Oh, that Pete.
    The Pete who couldn’t apologize enough for his poor dead Christ – ian missionary mother and daughter constituents being shot down by a CIA/DEA jet on a mission over South American jungle and the father lived with broken legs from the shootdown?
    Yeah, that Pete.
    What a couple of war criminal ghouls…

  2. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    The neocons (and the moneyed interests supporting them) have adopted a clever and deceitful strategy: label libertarians as liberals and then marginalize and destroy them. This strategy won’t work. It didn’t defeat Congressman Jones, and it didn’t defeat Congressman Amash. What I find particularly disgusting is the ongoing attempt by supporters of Likud in the United States to silence anyone who dares criticize Israel for its ongoing war crimes. We see this in action everywhere around this country. Cable companies are pressured not to carry Al Jazeera. TV reporters who criticize Israel or report their misdeeds are reassigned or taken off the air. Students who support the Palestinian cause or the BDS movement on college campuses are labelled anti-Semitic (or even worse: terrorists) and attempts are made to ban any organization with which they are affiliated. I even understand that this intolerance has made its way into Israeli society where Jewish peace activists are frequently harassed or threatened with physical violence by far-right street toughs.

  3. ffein says:

    I was glad that he called out those two guys (Ellis & Rogers) — shows some strength! When I read about his speech this morning, I figured that you would write a post about it. Good post.

  4. RUKidding says:

    Thanks for this info. I didn’t follow any of it, but it’s helpful to know about it.

    I’m utterly disgusted by all attempts (by whomever) to smear anyone with the “Al Qaeda” or “terrorist” label. Saxby Chambliss hopefully has a reserved seat in 99th circle of Hell for what he did to Max Cleland, and for continuing to be re-elected, his constituents should join him in Hades. This isn’t quite as disgusting but comes very very close to it.

    I’m thoroughly sick of the Muslim-baiting that goes on, esp amongst the Dominionist/Zionist set (albeit, they’re not the only lying POS “Christians” who do this).

    Good for Amash and how he handled his win. I wouldn’t answer a concession phone call, either, from a lying scum bag like Ellis. Rightwing pols need to call out this crap.

  5. TarheelDem says:

    Most of the coverage I’ve seen has been very vague about what was in Ellis’s campaign. Thanks for the details, and thanks to Amash for not rolling over and taking ethnophobic abuse by members of his own party.

  6. wallace says:

    quote”At some point, it needs to be okay to call out such bullshit.”unquote

    Wait…wait..let me get this straight emptywheel. It needs to be “ok”? Ok with fucking who? Since when do you need permission to call out such bullshit.?


    wallace forgets the emptywheel satirical samurai sword takes no prisoners,

    note..file under..

    days when quotations from Mark Twain apply

  7. TawasTeacher says:

    Thanks Marcy for posting Rep. Amash’s link. It’s refreshing to finally see a politician call out bullshit and actually refuse to make nice afterward. Too bad we don’t see it more…and to think it actually happened on the west side of our state in the heart of governor nerd territory!

  8. Peterr says:

    The Kansas GOP had similar issues last night after a brutal primary in various races, and are trying to put on a happy face before November rolls around.

    Pat Roberts won his GOP Senate primary with only 48% of the vote (41% to his main opponent, and 11% split between two minor GOP candidates). Now a bunch of the folks who voted against Roberts did so because they view him as insufficiently conservative, so it’s not as if those 52% are going to leap into the arms of his Democratic challenger or the “a plague on both your houses” independent in November, but still . . . it’s going to be mighty interesting.

    Oh, and Kansas even has its own problems with GOP officials and Muslims . . .

    Gavin Ellzey, the vice chairman of the Kansas Republican 3rd Congressional District Committee, advised on Twitter in early July that “offending Muslims is the duty of any civilized person.”

    Ellzey added, “Especially with a .45.”

    KS-03 is Kevin Yoder’s district, which covers the Kansas side of the Metro Kansas City area. (Cook has it as “solid Republican” at PVI R+6.)

    • emptywheel says:

      It has always infuriated me that only Dingell and Conyers (and Hansen Clarke for his term) would defend the interests of MI’s Arabs and Muslims. They used to be a key swing vote in this state, and still could be again. More importantly, Arabs are such a mainstream part of MI life, to have its electeds refuse to stand up for their rights has bothered me.

      The slur against Amash was actually sort of funny though. It’s not that big of a state, but just by being in the West, not close to Dearborn, it didn’t really work as presumably intended.

  9. Rapier says:

    I’m in the vicinity of that district so was subjected to the anti Amash TV ads. At the time and still I couldn’t imagine how anyone would think this was going to win any votes. Amash is an elected GOP congressman. What GOP voter in his or her right mind thinks a jihad supporter managed to slip under the radar and get nominated and elected before? I am second to none in my disrespect general level of knowledge of the American voter but this was just going too far.

    I presume Crazy Pete was in charge of trying to put an uber establishment guy in and he loses again. He’s lost primaries for governor and US Senator as I recall. For the life of me it’s another thing I can’t figure out. Why does he run. For his yeoman service fighting every inquiry into 911 and the post period of Stasi building he surely will be kept comfortable in some little office in some K Street building with cushy salary for the rest of his life.

  10. Ronald Bleier says:

    If 911 were an inside job, what would be the best way to keep the country safe?
    How about a real investigation and accountability for those who perpetrated the terror?

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