What’s a wingnut to do?

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y. 3). The defense of liberty often requires angry men to say stupid things. (Harry Hamburg / AP Photo.)

You really have to sympathize with Peter T. King, U.S. Republican representative from the middle of Long Island. He’s had to be very careful. It wasn’t so long ago that New York seemed like it was going to sweep out every single Republican in its congressional delegation, just like New England had. King had to hold on by the skin of his teeth, being careful not to say things that were too crazy. Oh, sure, King still said things that would get him noticed–he comes from Long Island after all. Long Islanders (or technically Lon Gylenders) used to be the ones that went to Mets games (when you didn’t have to go to a different state to watch the New York Mets) and scream “Boston sucks!” when the Mets were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. The intellectual effluvia of the entire state seems to wash into the island and get stuck there, because there is no outlet. And the East Hampton people won’t allow it to enter their part, because it would be bad for the business of the glitterati. Levitttown was only the beginning of a series of bad ideas that came to roost on the Island. It seems like at some point it reached critical proportion because they kept on coming like a bad dream, all the Long Island “problems”: the Amityville Horror, Joel Rifkin, Joey Buttafuoco, Amy Fisher, Sal Inghilleri, John Esposito, Marty Tankleff, the bizarre Seacrest Diner hostage case, Thomas Ryan who was accused of suffocating a 13-year old by stuffing rocks down his throat. These aren’t just crimes and criminals, they are cases crying out to be put in a textbook on sociopaths. But I lost my thought. Oh, yes, Peter King.

King has said some nutty stuff, but not the Full Monty kind of nuttiness that gets you elected vice chairman of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors, and then U.S. Senator. Yes, I am thinking of Alfonse D’Amato. But King had to worry about keeping his seat when he thought New York might actually prefer rational representatives. He was quickly proved wrong. But others realized this much more quickly in other parts of the country. And here is where King’s problem lies. He seems to have been late to adopting his personal wackadoodle cause. Republicans elsewhere, who had the luxury of going rogue, took up all the good causes: Eliminiating the Fed, flat tax, eliminating the IRS, abolishing every federal agency, regressive taxes, no taxes, Austrian economics, anti-Acorn, anti-immigrant, anti-poor, anti-uninsured, anti-children, anti-science, pro-oil companies, pro-nuclear weapons, anti-Universities (except “Christian” ones of course), pro-faith-based aid, anti-union, pro-monopoly (or oligopoly if an industry is too crowded to allow one price-setter), anti-regulation, pro-Wall Street, anti-tax on the rich, anti-environment, anti-choice, anti-women, pro-Apocalypse, and so forth. And they say Republicans don’t stand for anything!

Poor King lost out on his choice when he thought it was his job to look rational. You have to wonder about his judgment. How long ago has it been that voters have looked to the Republican party for rationality? But he has to do what he has to do. So he picked starting an investigation into why American Muslims have not condemned al-Qaeda enough. Now of course the failure to condemn al-Qaeda enough is a serious national issue. I’m somewhat embarrassed that I haven’t condemned al-Qaeda in nearly three months. And of course the hearing will allow Peter King to act all irrational and maybe even say something monumentally stupid. I don’t follow King like I used to, when it seemed he was saying something stupid on a daily basis. In fact, he used to be among tinkling cymbals of loopiness. But I don’t remember him saying something with the kind of rank ignorance he can summon when he’s on his game since he called for the killing of Julian Assange. So maybe his decision will help.

But the choice exposed King to criticism. It recalled his support of the IRA. The New York Times says:

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

Peter King goes the full monty with the IRA

King was not just a casual fan; he was a fervent supporter of the IRA. It was one of his original stupid talking points. Indeed, no one would have heard his other stupid statements had he not climbed onboard and started running this train. The Daily Beast gives his background:

In the 1980s, he was a prominent fundraiser for Noraid, the Irish-American organization that raised money for the IRA and was suspected of running guns to Ulster, too. Indeed, King’s rise to prominence within the Irish-American movement was predicated upon his support for the IRA at a time when New Yorkers were softer on terrorism than they are now. Noraid helped win King his seat in Congress, making him, in some respects, the terrorists’ Man in Washington.

On his travels to Northern Ireland, King would stay with members of the IRA and spend his evenings in IRA drinking clubs, soaking up the atmosphere and, I dare say, enjoying the craic.

In 1982 he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York, that “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.” That same year, an IRA bomb killed eight people in London’s Hyde Park. Two years later, the IRA almost succeeded in murdering the British prime minister. Only good fortune saved Margaret Thatcher’s life. In 1987, an IRA bomb murdered 11 civilians in Enniskillen during the annual Remembrance Day service. These are merely some of the more infamous IRA atrocities. There isn’t space here to list them all.

King was such a well-known figure in Northern Ireland that one judge presiding over a murder case in which the accused were members of the IRA, threw King out of his Belfast courtroom because, as the judge put it, “he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.”

Aftermath of Real-IRA bombing of Omagh in 1998. Twenty-nine died; 220 were injured. (Daily Mail.)

It is one of the signs that the New Reactionaries that run Congress have a sense of humor that he was made Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, one of whose jobs is to keep track of, not promote, terrorists groups. But King has a clever retort:

“I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel [with other terrorists groups and their US sponsors],” he said. “The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

So supporting Hamas, I suppose, will not be part of his hearings, since it has never attacked the U.S.

The IRA has taught Americans that you don't have to move you legs very much when you dance. And the rest of you not at all.

Now most people could give a hoot, of course, about the IRA. Fox News is not about to stir up a hornets nest over one of the favorites of their party (however much Murdoch’s Sun was anti-IRA and his Dublin Sun pro-IRA). And the most knowledgeable Americans associate it only with something vaguely Irish, and who, I ask, can object to Riverdance? But here’s the problem: Not everyone watches their local PBS affiliate during pledge drives. So not only have they not seen this great art form which, together with Thomas Cahill, they probably have nothing to anchor their misunderstanding of the IRA on. This can go either way then.

But I heard rumblings that might prove more dangerous. This is what happens when acronyms are used. In a local diner I overhead two people enthusiastically debating King’s ideological purity:

“How can he call himself a Tea Partier if he supported the IRS?”

“There were a lot of Republicans that supported the IRS at one time when they thought that the best they could do was just reduce taxes.”

“I don’t think we can trust him.”

“I want to give him a chance. I hear he’s planning on doing a hearing about how Muslims support the IRS.”

“Well, sure they do. The President’s a Muslim.”

So, we see that when your business is stirring up the stupids, you must be very careful. But I have faith in King. He hasn’t gotten to where he is by being smart.

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  1. April 17th, 2013

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