The Perpetual States of Fear

By Bill Maher

I'm not sure I'd expect anything else out of the party of paranoia, but the reaction on the right to President Obama's big counterterrorism speech was that any effort to dial back the war on terror, ever, even a little bit, is a recipe for Sharia being the law of the land by 2020:

Said Lindsay Graham, "We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over. What do you think the Iranians are thinking? At the end of the day, this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine, making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day."

Sen. John McCain: "To somehow argue that Al-Qaeda is quote 'on the run,' comes from a degree of unreality that to me is really incredible."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss: "The President's speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory."

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas (I know, who's he? The head of the House Homeland Security Committee): "The Obama administration's return to a pre-9/11 counterterrorism mindset puts American lives at risk.

Is there nothing between a pre-9/11 mindset -- and, let's face it, no one could go back there even if they tried -- and shitting our pants every day for all eternity? Does the dial always have to go to eleven?

None of this is surprising. The GOP always needs a bogeyman and, since gays and immigrants are off the table these days, they pretty much have nobody left but Al Qaeda.

And I don't think they're in touch with how Americans feel now. You want proof? Look at how Americans reacted to the Boston bombing. For the most part we actually did keep calm and carry on. It was horrible, we were shocked, but you didn't hear anyone really calling for even more security than we already have. At next year's Boston Marathon, no one is suggesting that they run without shoes. Because that's also a post-9/11 mindset. And we've gotten past that. If anything, there are going to be more people lining that race next year than there ever have been before. And it's Boston, so they've pledged to be even drunker. Because United We Stand. And also fall down and hit our chin on the curb.

And this is progress. Most Americans understood that there are some attacks you can't stop in a free society, and the best thing you can do is hunt down the people who did it. And then not find them until a neighbor looks in his boat and goes, "Uh, guys? He's over here."

Obama tried to preemptively blunt this nonsense by quoting James Madison ("No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare") and saying the most grown-up thing I’ve heard come out of a politician’s mouth in decades:

Finally, he said what we’ve been saying on the show for years: Bad shit is going to happen. It happened before 9-11 and it's going to happen again. Deal with it.

But no, John McCain's got to wet his depends. Part of it is political strategy, of course, but it's mostly the psychological need conservatives have for an authority figure to take care of them. John Dean wrote a book a few years ago about the authoritarian mind-set that most conservatives exhibit, and one of the traits of this mindset is "prone to panic easily." ("Bullying" and "aggressive on behalf of authority" also come into play here.)

In other words, conservatives are babies. The Democrats have a real opportunity here to grab the "macho" flag away from them. It won't happen, of course, because the Dems are led by Harry Reid, who looks like a schoolteacher on an episode of "Little House on the Prairie," but it's worth a shot.