'Men Behaving Badly' gets new co-stars:
outrageously offensive U.S. politicians
By Pat Morrison, NCR contributor
If the old BBC TV comedy series "Men Behaving Badly" were to be destined for resurrection in a contemporary U.S. ambiance, its new cast of characters should include at least one American governor and a congressman. Throw in a major U.S. aerospace giant to provide special effects and "it's a wrap," as they say in film and TV production.
Last month, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suggested that an effective way for the U.S. government to become more proactive in the war on terror would be to -- ready for the punchline? -- wiretap mosques!
"How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror," Romney said in a Sept. 14 speech to the Beltway's Heritage Foundation. "Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on?"
Both Romney and the conservative Heritage Foundation worship at the altar of Homeland Security. The Bay State governor, a Mormon with 2008 presidential aspirations, has lobbied with the National Governors Association for stronger security measures and not coincidentally is a member of a federal Homeland Security advisory council. Romney has gone on the record to say the United States should put its energies and dollars -- not to mention surveillance -- into preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil rather than into training and equipment to respond after attacks occur.
Perhaps not poor logic in this post-9/11 climate, and in the wake of terrorist attacks on Madrid, London and Bali. But the guv's suggestion to wiretap mosques (and also conduct intensified surveillance on foreign students) is dangerously close to xenophobia. And to violating the Bill of Rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Romney has refused to apologize for his remarks, saying he stands by his views. In that regard he's in good company. His fellow "Men Behaving Badly" co-star, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, has also refused to apologize for his even more outrageous suggestion that in the event of another attack on America, the U.S. could "take out their holy sites" -- "their" being Muslims and the holy sites, for starters, being Mecca.
Tancredo made his inflammatory remarks July 15 on Tampa, Fla., radio station WFLA-AM. A week later on Wolf Blitzer's CNN slot, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute told Tancredo, "My fear is that your words have consequences, and they're incitement."
Tancredo's response? "I hope so."
"They're incitements. And they play badly around the world," Zogby continued.
Tancredo: "I hope they have consequences. I hope people will talk about it. It's fine."
To switch performance metaphors and paraphrase: "Well here's another nice mess you've gotten Uncle Sam into!" says the nation to the reincarnated Laurel & Hardy combo of Romney & Tancredo. But unlike the hapless Stan Laurel, neither the governor nor the congressman seems to see the error of his ways. As Tancredo, who has repeatedly refused to meet with Muslim constituents in his district or to apologize, said on CNN: "I'm here to say what I believe is true and what I think we should do to protect the nation."
The congressman is at a loss to explain, however, how bombing Islam's holiest site in Mecca would "protect the nation."
Perhaps that job should be reserved to Boeing's CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a controversial new helicopter (with a disastrous track record, judging from prototypes and cost). Boeing and partner Bell Helicopter Textron unveiled the stealth chopper with an ad in the Sept. 24 National Journal. "It descends from the heavens. Ironically it unleashes hell," boasts the ad copy. Oh, and did we mention that it shows soldiers (described in further ad copy as U.S. Special Forces) rappelling onto a building -- complete with a minaret and dome topped with a crescent moon -- labeled in Arabic "Muhammad Mosque"?
"Oops! Clerical error!" explained red-faced Boeing and Textron in response to complaints. "The ad was never meant to run!" (Sure. But to their credit both companies did pull the ad.)
Somehow our national paranoia over "national security" has made otherwise seemingly intelligent people think it is legitimate to target other religions and utter egregiously offensive and dangerous statements. Do they hear what they're saying? Let's bomb Mecca, wiretap Islamic houses of worship, "take out" the mosque (with civilian worshipers inside perhaps?). If Romney and Tancredo represent American "leadership," we're in trouble, big time.
This week, the Muslim community worldwide began Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The period also commemorates the revelation of Islam's holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Mohammad. Tancredo, Romney and Boeing/Textron owe our Muslim brothers and sisters-- in the United States and worldwide -- a giant apology.
In a way, too bad it's not Lent. Then we who are Christians could resolve to give up these "Men Behaving Badly" for the 40 days. And then see to it that their deplorable show doesn't air in reruns.
[Pat Morrison, former NCR managing editor, writes from St. Cloud, Minn.]
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