Great American terrorists

A wingnut proclaims himself “a proud right-wing terrorist,” and a Republican Congressman responds, “Amen, God bless you. There is a great American.”

Northern California Republican Congressman Wally Herger held a “town hall” at which he described health insurance reform as “a threat to democracy.”


One speaker said he could trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower and said they did not arrive holding their hands out for help.

I am a proud right wing terrorist, he declared to cheers.

Herger praised the man’s attitude.

Amen, God bless you, Herger said with a broad smile. There is a great American.

The threat of political violence from the right is real. The killings have already started. Time to make a fuss. Conservatives did an excellent job of tarring liberalism with the excesses of the anti-war and Black Power left; we should return the favor. The difference is that this time it won’t be unfair; while liberals routinely spoke out against violence in the 1960s and 1970s, today’s pseudo-conservatives mostly don’t seem to have a problem with it.

Update Just to be clear: I don’t think that Herger was urging people to go out and commit terrorism. He’s just willing to play with violent language – after all, he started out by telling people that a bill to change health insurance rules was “a threat to democracy” – without worrying too much about what some lunatic might do as a result. Some of the radio talking heads are arsonists, eager to start a wildfire; cynical pols like Herger just like to play with matches on dry hillsides.

Second update

A reader writes:

I am greatly entertained to see my normally low-profile congressman thrust awkwardly into the national spotlight. However, having attended the “town hall” in question (which drew more than 2,000 people — a phenomenal crowd in a town the size of Redding) and heard the “proud right-wing terrorist” comment from about 20 feet away, I must share my clear impression was that the older gent who said it was joking — perhaps in poor taste — about the recent Homeland Security Report about right-wing extremists. Despite the outrage of every liberal in Shasta County, Calif., and now, apparently, nationwide, there was no threat to anyone in the comment.

Fair enough. My reader was there, and I wasn’t, and he didn’t hear any threat. But on his account, someone got up and identified himself with the truly scary outfits profiled in the DHS report and the SPLC report, joining in the right-wing project of making fun of those reports, after several killings and while armed men are showing up outside Presidential meetings.

It seems to me that a responsible Congressman would have had some comment on that beyond “Amen, God bless you.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: