James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Homeland insecurity: DHS chief apologizes for something Bush appointee did right

Posted by James McPherson on April 16, 2009

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano felt obligated to apologize to veterans today, reflecting a remarkable shift in national politics. We no longer have a presidential administration that is incapable of apologizing for–or even admitting–obvious blunders (though of course, “We’re sorry we were wrong about the weapons” won’t bring back thousands of dead Iraqi children). Instead, we have an administration that apologizes when it has done nothing wrong.

The apology came in reaction to a Department of Homeland Security report titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The American Legion, various ill-informed bloggers, talk radio hosts, Fox News (surprise!) and others immediately and misleadingly feigned offense (while Fox also offered Web page front-page segments about”Porn Stars and Puppies,” “Bubble Baths in Tiaras,” and “10 Cuddly Cougars“).

Many conservatives have taken offense because Homeland Security has been doing part of its job–assessing threats. Perhaps I’ve forgotten, but I don’t remember similar complaints from conservatives about reports that cited threats from left-wing extremism in 2001 or in March of this year. Furthermore, I also haven’t seen any of the whiners point out the fact that the latest report came from a division headed by Roger Mackin, a Bush-administration appointee who contributed more than $4,500 to Republicans during the last presidential campaign.

Critics falsely complain that the report demonizes veterans while targeting virtually anyone who opposes abortion or illegal immigration. I fact, it mentions abortion exactly twice, once in a footnote and once in a historical note. For the record, the first reference states: “Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

The other, historical, note states in full: “Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage. During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.”

Immigration gets a bit more attention in the report, though again mostly in a historical context. And anyone with even a modest knowledge of history should be able to recognize that immigrants (legal and illegal) have been a common target of hate groups throughout history (and throughout the world). The supposed “anti-veteran” comments are equally weak, despite Napolitano’s need to apologize today.

The key point is this: Saying that some hate groups use abortion and immigration to justify their actions is in no way synonymous with saying that anyone opposed to abortion or illegal immigration is a terrorist. That would be like saying that because some terrorists are Muslims, all Muslims are terrorists. And I know that conservatives would never suggest such a thing.

Incidentally, the Obama administration should apologize for something else that it did do today, related to terrorism: It announced that CIA torturers will never be prosecuted.

Sunday update: Something else the Obama administrations should apologize for is announcing that it will keep Bush administration secrets regarding domestic spying. Unlike the DHS report that has people up in arms, that electronic spying, by either administration, is something that should worry all of us.


24 Responses to “Homeland insecurity: DHS chief apologizes for something Bush appointee did right”

  1. Shane said

    Are you kidding me? You are really a liberal tool and Nobama and his administration are a bunch of cowards! They would rather call American citizens and Veterans of this country terrorists, but they call the actual terrorism, by terrorists “Man-Made disasters”! Are you serious you liberal panty wearing commie??? Just like all the media outlets called the people gathered at the Tea Parties across the country Right-Wing nuts…Are you serious??? Contrary to what your pea brain believes, it was a nice mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. They were doing their civic duty by protesting the insane spending that Nobama and his administration are putting on display. Fox did not put them together like your pea brain thinks. This was all grass roots you dumb a$$! Not like ACORN who is actually paid to go out and rally! Also, you are a moron if you think what the Bush Administration did was torture. Go over to Iraq, or Iran or Somalia and we will see what they do to you…my guess is that it will be much worse then getting you naked and making you sleep with an insect you stupid liberal a$$!

  2. Gabrielle said

    “Incidentally, the Obama administration should apologize for something else that it did do today, related to terrorism: It announced that CIA torturers will never be prosecuted.”

    gaaaaaaaaaaaaah *headdesk*

    “Go over to Iraq, or Iran or Somalia and we will see what they do to you…my guess is that it will be much worse then getting you naked and making you sleep with an insect you stupid liberal a$$!”

    What the heck…Shane, if that’s your real name? James is hardly a liberal tool. At the very least he doesn’t feel the need to use profanity and insults to make his point. Can’t say the same for you. Also, if you think that’s all they did to the Gitmo and other political prisoners, you need to read more news. Even if that was all they did, it’s still inexcusable. Torture is never right or humane.

  3. Luis Lopez said


    Oh dear, where to start?

    “Fox did not put them together like your pea brain thinks.” Oh, really? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/#30217505

    If that clip doesn’t demonstrate to you that Fox wasn’t promoting the Tea Parties, then I think you’re pretty dense, to put it mildly.

    “This was all grass roots you dumb a$$! Not like ACORN who is actually paid to go out and rally!”

    Grass roots? Hardly. Again, check the clip I linked to above. Furthermore, it has already been debunked that ACORN has been involved in voter registration fraud: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/the_whoppers_of_2008_–_the_sequel.html

    “Also, you are a moron if you think what the Bush Administration did was torture. ”

    To echo Gabrielle’s sentiments, the U.S. has absolutely no excuse EVER to use torture. I’d like to think the United States is a country based on principles that would prevent us from stooping to using tortuous techniques.

    Lastly, see how I put forth an argument without being a jerk or using profanities? It’s really easy. You should try it sometime, Shane.

  4. James McPherson said

    Shane, despite the range of wit and wisdom you shared, you forgot to mention waterboarding–which has always been considered torture. But you don’t need to take my word for it. I’m guessing that if you voted you cast a ballot for John McCain, so here’s what he had to say about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Kj_sHEcnP4&feature=related. I especially like the comparison of George Bush and Pol Pot. Thanks, all of you, for the comments.

  5. zelda said

    Looks like you have a real fan there James. Gabrielle has your back. What a sweetie.LOL!

    Why this subject is difficult to understand boggles the mind.

  6. James McPherson said

    Zelda, I appreciate all the obviously intelligent folks who support my views 🙂 On the other hand, I also appreciate those of you who typically disagree with me–dialogue is a good thing, as you’ve noted before. And I especially appreciate folks like you, Gabrielle and Luis who read and respond regularly.

  7. James McPherson said

    Shane, one final note in regard to your statement about the Tea Parties being “a nice mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.” That may have been true in some places, but judging from the majority of signs I saw I’d bet not in most. And perhaps you saw this: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/04/18/gop-congressman-booed-mercilessly-at-tea-party-rally/

  8. Shane said

    Right…that’s right. I forgot about water boarding. Oh, the horror. Spilling some water on someone’s face is such a horrible thing. What if it could save innocent American civilians? Geez, what person wouldn’t want that? I guess you and the people that blog on your board. If water boarding is the worst torture tactic that we use, which we supposedly don’t use anymore…then the sickest, and most twisted thing that you liberals have brought upon us is another terrorist attack on US soil. The “man-made disaster” people are looking at the United States and honestly are laughing at us. You don’t think they will be able to recruit new members and tell them, “Look, this is what the Americans have in their pathetic torture repertoire…we can teach you to overcome these tactics with ease!” This is exactly what is going to happen. Thanks to Nobama…they have our torture tactics…and even as the liberals that pushed him to put this out in the public domain…you have to agree it kind of makes your case against torture look kind of pathetic. I mean lets be honest here.

    I do apologize for the rant previously…I really do like civil discourse. I understand that not all liberals are foolhardy as well, not all right wingers know what they are talking about either. Word to the wise Luis, please don’t use MSNBC as a source…the whole free world knows that MSNBC is in the tank for Nobama…James, please back me up on that point. Also, you ACORN debunk link is in and of itself, debunked. I believe ACORN does have cases for voter fraud against them in many, many states, so please do your homework before posting misleading information.

    On a side note, Shane is my real name…why would I have to lie about my name? I also did vote for McCain. I vote for the lesser of two evils always…I liked Ron Paul, but I knew he didn’t have a shot in hell becoming the next President, so I did my civic duty and voted for McCain.

    Also, James you seem like a nice guy…maybe a bit misled, but that is ok. Thanks for pointing out that the tea parties where not all about a bunch of knuckle dragging, right wing extremists. It is also a point to note, this was a grass roots event. Not the events that ACORN members get paid to do. The fact that all the media outlets failed to cover a majority of this event proves that it was a major event, since all the outlets…NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN are all in the tank for Nobama. That dispute cannot be denied. I mean did you see the Journalist malpractice on the part of that CNN “reporter”? She totally got called out after her “biased” reporting after CNN turned their cameras off! That was classic and you had to admit shows the bias of the media today. Please don’t give me the FOX argument, I watch all the networks, and FOX is by far the most unbiased news organization. They may be a little right of center, but compared to the others they are as close as unbiased as a news organization can get.

    I also don’t agree with water boarding…. but it is far less in torture then we would get from ANY of our enemies. If you deny that you are only kidding yourself.

  9. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Shane. I agree with much of what you said, and find MSNBC to be as annoyingly liberal as Fox is annoyingly conservative. And some of the CNN activities regarding the “tea parties” were disgusting.

    As for ACORN, I’ve written about them previously so won’t go into detail here other than to point out that not a single known illegal vote has been cast due to ACORN, while vote-changing GOP voter fraud has been well documented.

    And while I agree that we’re probably far better than our enemies in regard to treatment of prisoners, that doesn’t meant that we can’t and shouldn’t do better. I’m sure you saw the latest waterboarding revelations today. We should hope our enemies become more like us rather than us becoming more like them.

    I’m glad you use your real name–many don’t, which in my view automatically makes them less credible. Thanks for the comments.

  10. Shane said

    Thanks for the post James. Yes I did see the latest headline on water boarding, although I haven’t had a chance to take a look at it. We can always hope that our enemies will follow our lead on torture as noted previously, aside from water boarding, our torture tactics from that CIA memo that was brought into the public light have much to be desired. Somehow though, I don’t think that will happen and in my opinion, it leaves this country in a more vulnerable position. Especially since these people now know how we torture. It will be much easier for them to with stand our torture practices since they now know what they will be subject to.

    As always, torture is a very open debate. As John McCain stated and I am paraphrasing, ‘torturing a prisoner makes them tell you what you want to hear, not necessarily what the truth really is”. However, there are many in the CIA circle that claim that torturing Kalied Shiek Mohammed (I think this is the guy) actually prevented another terrorist attack on our soil. The problem is torture has to exist; we can’t simply give our enemies milk and cookies and expect them to hand over vital information in regards to national security that could harm American citizens. Even the most devout liberal can’t believe this would work…at least I hope not. As much of a Pacifist Obama seems to be and as much as his base believes him to be, I think if push came to shove, he would break his own torture rules. If we had a prisoner that we know had vital knowledge to an attack in this country that would kill tons of American lives…I think Obama would give the order to do whatever it took to get that information. That is my opinion, and Leon Panetta has stated as much in a roundabout way in front of the Senate panel for his confirmation hearings.

    The jury is still out on ACORN, by the way. There have been many charges levied against them for massive voter fraud across the country and to my knowledge, nothing has been settled. We’ll see what happens

  11. zelda said

    What a world…we are talking about “acceptable torture methods”.


    Sort of an oxymoron………..

    Men and their greed and their wars and cruelty to one another just sickens me.

    Chatter chatter……………….gawd

  12. Shane said

    Zelda…I suppose if we lived in your Utopian world, then talking about torture would be like talking about money growing on trees. However, this is the real world and as far as I know, money doesn’t grow on trees…well, unless you are part of the 50% of the individuals that don’t pay any Federal income tax, but do get a welfare check. But I digress, like it or not, torture is a part of the real world. There is really an acceptable way to torture in my opinion. You either do it or you don’t. Terrorists don’t have a problem with it. Its like Capital punishment, if you are going to do it…do it right or don’t so it at all. Why threaten the death penalty, if you never use it? What sort of deterrent is that? It goes for torture, if you are not going to do it right, why would you do it at all? The CIA field manual that was released by Nobama is quite frankly a joke. If those are our torture tactics, we may as well not even torture at all…or in your Utopian world, lets just give them milk and cookies to kill our loved ones.

  13. zelda said


    I rest my case.

  14. Shane said

    Zelda you are the typical liberal that cannot refute anything. I offer you an insightful response and this is all you could muster? James, in my opinion I think you should bar individuals from posting on this blog that cannot, at the very least offer up some sort of intelligent response. Yes…Nobama…it saves me from having to refer to him as Hitler or Mussolini…Nobama encompasses all. By the way, as an Orator…Nobama couldn’t hold Hitler’s jock strap. Lets see you refute that one.

  15. Gabrielle said

    Lol, Shane, I disagree with your characterization of liberals as people who ‘cannot refute anything.’ If Zelda is at all like myself in terms of arguing – I often get mentally exhausted after exchanging words with people for a long while, and sometimes use ‘cop out’ or illogical ‘arguments’ in lieu of actual arguments to unconsciously signal that I don’t really want to continue the discussion and/or have lost interest.

    I, as someone who voted for Obama, although someone who doesn’t characterize herself as entirely liberal (most people don’t conform entirely to any quintessential political label, in my opinion, yourself included 🙂 ), really respect you for stepping up the tone of your arguments and responding to James’, in particular, responses to your original comment. A lot of people just comment and run and don’t stay and keep participating in the original discussion and/or challenges to their primary arguments. You make good points and I like that 🙂 Although I will say that comparing Obama to someone who was (in my opinion) personally responsible for the deaths of six million European Jews is unfair and unoriginal. During the last eight years people made the same comparison, between Hitler and George W. Bush, which I ALSO think was/is unfair and unoriginal.

    Oh, and to go back to your opening point, I could make and have made the same point about the ‘typical conservative’ who cannot argue well. You, and many of my close friends, and my boyfriend, among other people, would obviously not be good examples of that so-called ‘typical conservative.’ In my opinion most people, of any and all political affiliations, these days, don’t argue or refute very well. Particularly on the Internet.

  16. James McPherson said

    “There are many in the CIA circle that claim that torturing Kalied Shiek Mohammed (I think this is the guy) actually prevented another terrorist attack on our soil.”

    But there seem to be just as many who claim that other methods would be more effective, and there’s no way of knowing that we wouldn’t have got the same–or better–information by using other means (which, as far as I know, may or may not involve milk and cookies).

    And those other means wouldn’t have been as useful for terrorists’ recruiting, or done as much to hurt our international standing. I actually wrote more about that on the post that comes after this one, titled “John McCai, torture MIA.”

    It does discourage me a bit how often people quickly go to a Hitler reference when they happen to disagree with someone’s policies.

  17. James McPherson said

    And now we find that Condi Rice and probably Dick Cheney approved the waterboarding. As I wrote more than a month ago, Cheney should be tortured. Now it appears that Rice should be, too. We’ve probably had presidential administrations that were equally inept, but I wonder if we’ve ever had one that was as evil.

  18. Shane said

    Gabrielle. I have to say good point. A person will give up if they become exhausted, but at the same token they will give up if they have no relevant information or facts to back up their arguments. This happens on both sides of the coin.

    I don’t like to paint liberals on the same canvas. I actually have many liberal friends…as misguided as they are. I still love them all. It makes holiday parties a blast because no one is ever bored 🙂 You would be correct on your assessment of me not being the “typical conservative”. I am actually a registered independent. Pro-choice at that…. just don’t tell my conservative friends 🙂

    Also, to your characterizations of my Hitler reference I have to say I am a bit disappointed by both James and yourself. Both of you are misrepresenting my comparison in my previous post. My only point in that post was to say Obama is far, far from the great Orator his “bots” and the “media” have portrayed this guy to be. As evil as Hitler was, he was arguably the greatest Orator in the history of the world. Here is a different perspective: If Hitler was in the Major Leagues of Oratory skills, then Obama would most likely be in Single A at best in Oratory skills. I mean the way the media love fest has portrayed this guys Oratory skills is pretty ridiculous. I mean the guy can’t even give a speech without a teleprompter and even George W could speak without a teleprompter and he was considered to be, by some, a moron. What does that say about Obama? So, as far a mischaracterization of my comparison between Hitler and Obama…you guys were going a little off base.

    With that said, there are many, many people who see many similarities between both of these men especially earlier Hitler. I mean all you have to do is read up on Alinsky, whom was a mentor to Obama.

  19. Shane said


    I understand there are many that agree and disagree on what is gathered or not gathered using torture, or without using torture. That’s the whole point of this argument. You have a liberal administration in office and for the most part, many are against torture and have always been against torture. However, most in the past administration were for torture. Right now, the liberal administration is pandering to their core by creating the illusion that people in the Bush administration will be prosecuted. That is never going to happen, that is why Obama waffled on it. He was feeling so much heat from the left that he had to make it appear that they would try to prosecute Bush administration officials or he would have had really have a hard time explaining that to his core people.

    This thing goes deeper then most people realize. Yes, Condi and Cheney state that they approved the torture tactics, but do you believe for one second that the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee weren’t briefed on exactly what was going on? If you believe Pelosi stating she had no idea this was going on…I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you 🙂 I mean this was right after 9/11, these guys did, what they thought at the time was in the best interest of the country, right or wrong. It doesn’t matter its in the past and hindsight is always 20/20. My point is that Democrats were just as involved as the Republicans on this one and whatever committee is formed; we are going to find out that this wasn’t just a Republican thing. I actually hope they dig into this so that people will see the Ultimate Hypocrisy on the Democratic side of the aisle.

    One other thing I would like to note…you cannot prosecute someone for writing legal opinions. Therefore, for those who are calling for the heads of the people that wrote the legalese behind this, well they are not that very intelligent to say the least. The legal parameters were written in a time of war, to people who are not part of a sovereign nation, so the Geneva Convention argument is moot. There have always been administrations that disagreed with the previous administrations on their policies, but we can’t go on a witch-hunt because there is a disagreement. What they did was legal under the law and had the full support of both Democrats and Republicans at the time. I mean, if that were the case, Truman could have been tried and convicted for dropping the A-bomb on Japan…where does it end? What if the next President is a conservative President? Don’t you think he/she could go after the Obama administration for allowing taxpayer money to be spent on providing abortions in third-world countries? For people that are pro-life…that is giving taxpayer money to commit murder. I am not a legal expert, but conspiracy to commit murder doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility

  20. Gabrielle said

    @James: If you are a fiction reader at all, I encourage you to read the book “Wicked,” by Gregory Maguire. It’s a look at the typical story of the Wicked Witch of the West of Wizard of Oz fame…from HER point of view! It uses that quixotic, intriguing idea for a plot to transcend typical ideas of Oz, Dorothy, the Wizard, the Witch, and delves into deeper ideas about evil, religion, good, and how our conceptions of all the aforementioned ideas/characters are formed 😀

    @Shane: I didn’t mean to dis the idea of comparing any figure to Hitler intellectually, but as an English lit major, I question it on the basis of it becoming so common as to be cliche, if that makes sense. I myself used to compare George W. Bush to Hitler quite often, particularly in Internet discussions, until someone else informed me of Godwin’s Law, “an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states: ‘As [an Internet] discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_Law)” I was so amused and slightly mortified that the practice had become so common & slightly mocked (and, naturally, I have the classic English lit major/writer’s unreasoning HORROR or cliches) that I stopped it immediately. That’s all 🙂

    Also, to your comment @James regarding torture: well-reasoned, particularly in your thorough knowledge of US law. You can’t say that of the average man on the street/blog commenter these days 😀

  21. James McPherson said

    Gabrielle, thanks for the book recommendation–I’ll check it out. I’m about to start a re-read of 1984 to discuss with a couple of other faculty members this summer. I read it years ago, and agreed with Neil Postman’s view that Brave New World presented a likelier scenario, but both were horrifying.

    Thanks, too, for the reference to Godwin’s Law. I’d seen it before, but couldn’t bring it to mind when I was trying to answer Shane’s post (and that of someone on the other blog I mentioned). And while Hitler may have been a great orator (less so than Martin Luther King Jr., in my view, though I don’t speak German), he was aided by stagecraft (as Obama has been) and by a ruined economy (as Obama may also be).

    I also don’t believe you can prosecute someone for legal opinions in most cases. That doesn’t mean that Bush and Cheney shouldn’t be prosecuted for many other things stemming from their illegal war. And while I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Shane, I am less impressed with the ad hominen attacks in your other posts–though I understand how passion can lead to such things. Thanks.

  22. Gabrielle said

    @James: You’re welcome 😀 I personally think that “Brave New World” represents a likelier scenario for what we’d see in America, if conservativism (Google Chome says that’s not a word? It’s 9:30 AM. Screw you, Google Chrome.) were to run its natural/[secular] course.

    “I’m about to start a re-read of 1984 to discuss with a couple of other faculty members this summer.”

    Well, for a, WOW, I’d like to sit in on that conversation O_O Whitworth faculty, as a group, are some of the most intellectually intense and otherwise talented people I have had the privilege to meet in my lifetime. For b, to continue my earlier point, I think 1984 is more of an example of liberalism run amok.

  23. Shane said


    Thank you for the compliment 🙂 I really do like to come into a blog with an idea of what I am going to write with a little knowledge behind it. It is very easy in this day and age to throw out tidbits of information and having less information to backup what you are saying. I like to see both sides of the coin so I find myself playing devils advocate once in awhile. I would like to follow up and state that you do quite well yourself…as does James 🙂

    You are quite right; the Hitler comparisons do get thrown around quite a bit in this day and age. I shall keep this in mind the next time I have a comparison to make. I shall make sure I chose differently as I do have a history of people to choose from 🙂

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I may pick up a copy of Wicked after I pick up a copy of The 5000 year Leap. I have been hearing a ton about this book and I want to check it out to see what the fuss is about. Has either of you two read this piece? I am curious to know what it is all about.

    By the way James…on a side note…I did apologize for the other posts J Sometimes my passion dictates what is written. By the time my brain has a chance to catch up…. I have already hit the submit button J that is my constant struggle in life. Make sure I read through something before hitting submit J

  24. Gabrielle said

    @Shane: you’re very welcome, sir ^.^ BTW, I’m afraid I must apologize for my recent habit of taking up chatspeak in everyday conversation/comments. It’s Twitter’s fault. I have an account there (http://twitter.com/gabriellev) and while I find it a good exercise for my creative writing skills, it is not doing good things for my grammar >.<;

    I really recommend “Wicked,” by Gregory Maguire, to ANYONE interested in religion from a political or sociological point of view, particularly from the point of view of one of the most maligned characters in Western literature – ladies & gentlemen, The Wicked Witch of the West (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elphaba).

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