Rep. Steve King (R-IA) expressed sympathy last week for the motivations behind the suicide plane attack by Joseph Stack on an IRS office in Austin, TX. Although there has been no widespread public outcry over King’s remarks, former civil rights lawyer Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com believes they amount to “endorsing violence” and are “very dangerous.”
“I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have had a target for his airplane,” a smiling King told an interviewer from Think Progress. “The IRS is an agency that’s unnecessary, and when the day comes when that that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’ll be a happy day for all Americans.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was aghast at King’s remarks. “It will be a happy day when that guy, who just killed a government worker and flew a plane into a government building, gets what he wanted,” she exclaimed on Wednesday. “That will be a happy day.”
“It does seem remarkable to me,” Maddow commented to Greenwald, “that a member of Congress can get away with talking about the legitimacy of this type of act against the government and not have caused a firestorm.”
“I think it’s important to distinguish between discussions of whether the underlying grievances are valid … and justifications for the violence itself,” Greenwald replied. “You can have discussions about whether the underlying grievances of, say, Islamic radicals are justifiable — things like the fact that we bomb their countries and invade and occupy them, overthrow their governments, prop up tyrannies — without justifying terrorism.”
“But what the right tends to do in this country, Greenwald continued, “at least when they’re out of power … they adopt very extremist anti-government rhetoric that suggests not merely that the government is acting wrongly, but that the government is a legitimate target for attack. … And what Congressman King said, I think, clearly crosses that line from merely talking about the underlying grievances into endorsing violence itself. And it’s very dangerous and should provoke a much stronger reaction.”
Greenwald is not alone in singling out King’s remarks for criticism. Even libertarian and self-described anti-tax activist Wesley Messamore expressed dismay in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor over the unqualified statements of support for Stark’s actions he received from fervent Tea Partiers after he condemned the attack at his blog.
“I sympathize strongly with the grievances of the tea party movement and have been active in it from the beginning,” Messamore wrote. “I hate to paint it in a bad light, because I believe it is a mostly peaceful movement. … So why on earth can’t they just call Stack a terrorist? … At a time like this, if every disgruntled American did what Stack did, our great country would be reduced to ashes. If the tea party wants to be taken seriously, it is going to have to take the complex world we live in more seriously. He may not have been a Muslim, but Joe Stack was a terrorist. Period.”
Greenwald’s concluding statement to Maddow was almost identical to Messamore’s. “If you read the manifesto, for lack of a better word, that Joseph Stack left, what it said was, ‘I‘m doing this in order to inspire others to give up their bodies in pursuit of these political ideas.’ I mean, if that‘s not terrorism, then I don‘t know what is. … We’re reluctant to call it that because these are Americans and the premise seems to be that Americans don’t commit terrorism, only foreigners do.”
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Feb. 24, 2010.