The real problem with Congressman Peter King’s hearings
By: Tom Deignan | Published Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 2:43 PM | Updated Friday, September 9, 2011, 10:27 PM
Read more: Why not have Muslim congressman investigate Catholic Church scandals, ala Peter King?Read more: IrishCentral founder on 'Hardball' with Chris Matthews
There is a group in America. They are a minority, but they are quite a high-profile group, especially in and around large cities.
Sadly, in the past, they have been linked to certain crimes, including acts of terrorism.
And, perhaps worst of all, some members of this group have clammed up when it comes to sharing information with the authorities about these crimes.
I am speaking, of course, about high-ranking members of the Catholic Church.
As Long Island Congressman Peter King gets ready to convene hearings on homegrown radicals this week, some disturbing questions are being raised.
Are these hearings necessary? Are they a reflection of a lingering anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in the land?
And does King’s past experience with the peace process in Northern Ireland -- in which, critics charge, he was more than a little sympathetic to the Republican cause -- taint his efforts to unearth terrorists here in America?
Finally, the ghost of old red-baiting senator Joe McCarthy has been dusted off and propped up. Some of King’s critics say he is nothing more than a McCarthy for the 21st century, looking to score political points by creating a scapegoat.
Many of these questions were asked by regular as well as famous folk over the weekend, during a rally in Times Square. The theme of the rally was “I am a Muslim, too,” and hoped to convey the message that when you infringe upon the rights of one group in the U.S., you infringe upon the rights of all Americans.
However, I think King has, at least adequately, defended the looming hearings.
That’s one reason why the McCarthy comparisons are off base. McCarthy was an increasingly unstable, paranoid demagogue who eventually drank himself into an early grave.
He was also, it must be added, lending voice to insecure Irish Catholics in America who still felt somewhat marginalized by elites, and, thus, wanted to prove their 100% American-ness by flexing their anti-Communist credentials.
That’s not what’s going on in Washington right now. King is a complex political thinker, not afraid to veer from his own party’s conventional wisdom, even if it costs him support.
He surely knew these hearings would provoke a backlash. We happen to live in an age of global terror.
I, for one, take him at his word that he thinks homegrown Islamist terrorism is a problem that needs further investigation.
Some of King’s critics, in the past, have probably argued that Congress should investigate radical anti-abortion groups, or other far right causes.
Now, suddenly, they don’t think we should at least have a debate on this topic.
The real problem, as Richard Cohen pointed out in a column on Tuesday, is whether or not these hearings are hypocritical. That’s where the Catholic Church comparison comes in.
“The government has no business examining any peaceful religious group because a handful of adherents have broken the law. If it did, it would be past time to look into the Catholic Church, which clearly was -- or maybe still is -- engaged in concealing the sex crimes of priests and others,” Cohen wrote.
This, of course, is a very touchy area. Which does not change the fact that this is a valid point.
Looking into the sources of radical terrorists -- whatever their cause -- is, of course, a legitimate endeavor. King has to make sure this does not become some kind of witch hunt or blame game.
But the folks who are condemning King do need to ease up on the McCarthy references.
On the other hand, those who believe there are so many nefarious Muslim terror plots out there need to look around and see that there are very real problems unfolding out in the open.
Just this week, there were disturbing new reports out of Philadelphia and Los Angeles related to sex scandals and the priesthood.
Are investigations called for? Hauling religious officials before Congress would certainly look unseemly.
That, of course, is how certain Muslim Americans will be feeling this week.
(Contact “Sidewalks” at email@example.com or facebook.com/tomdeignan) Read more: Why not have Muslim congressman investigate Catholic Church scandals, ala Peter King?Read more: IrishCentral founder on 'Hardball' with Chris Matthews