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Rep. King's red scare

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, is holding controversial hearings that he says will assess the threat of terrorism among American Muslims.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peter King staged his investigation into the loyalty of Muslim Americans in an appropriate place: a hearing room once used by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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The New York Republican was eager to avoid the Red Scare taint, and he allowed the 84-year-old dean of the House, Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, to open the session with wisdom learned during his time as a chairman. "I kept a picture of Joe McCarthy hanging on the wall so that I would know what it was I did not want to look like," Dingell said, cautioning the committee not to "blot the good name or the loyalty" of Arabs or Muslims.

But the ghost of Tail-Gunner Joe would not be denied. It found a host in the body of freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), who asked Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy Baca, a witness, about his work with a large Muslim group called CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"You are aware that this is a Hamas and . . . Muslim Brotherhood entity?" the lawmaker asked, pronouncing Muslim as "moo-slim."

"No, I'm not aware of that," the sheriff replied.

Cravaack informed Baca that CAIR was founded by two people identified by the FBI as "Hamas members." "Basically you're dealing with a terrorist organization," he said.

"If the FBI has something to charge CAIR with, bring those charges forward," Baca replied, coolly.

Cravaack was indignant. "Are you saying that the FBI was wrong in identifying that CAIR is part of Hamas, an entity of Hamas?"

This is the very definition of McCarthyism: false allegations of subversion. King didn't even bother inviting the group to defend itself.

I'm no fan of CAIR, which was one of about 300 unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist finance case of 2007. But the FBI doesn't call CAIR a terrorist group. Nor does it allege that CAIR was founded or financed by Hamas. In America, if somebody has committed a crime, even somebody unpopular, we bring charges. We don't float Internet rumors at a congressional hearing.

Happily, King won't become another Joe McCarthy. This time, the opposition has no fear. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, sobbed as he testified about a Muslim American who died as a first responder on Sept. 11, 2001; King looked away. It could not have been any more comfortable as King and his white Republican colleagues listened to Democrats - most of them black or Latino - speak up for another minority. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.) theatrically waved a copy of the Constitution and proclaimed: "This breathing document is in pain!"

King and his courtiers were evidently sensitive to appearance, because many of them prefaced their accusations the way people sometimes say "some of my best friends are gay."


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