Tom Tancredo's Final Solution
Meet the biggest fool running for president.
Wouldn't you know it. The Weekly World News announces that it will cease publication (it will retain its presence on the Web), and within a week there surfaces irrefutable evidence that space aliens ate Tom Tancredo's brain. Addressing 30 people at the Family Table restaurant in Osceola, Iowa, the presidential candidate and Republican House member from Colorado outlined his highly original position on homeland defense:
If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. Because that is the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do. But as I say, if I am wrong, fine. … I would be happy to do something else. But you had better find a deterrent or you will find an attack. There is no other way around it. There have got to be negative consequences for the actions they take. That's the most negative I can think of.
A cynic might wonder whether Tancredo's proposal to take out the two holiest sites in Islam is a pathetic bid for attention by a candidate whose support among Republican voters is stuck at 1 percent, below Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback. If you listen to the audio, you'll observe that people in the restaurant had begun talking rather loudly among themselves when Tancredo brought this Mecca and Medina idea up (and, amazingly, scarcely piped down as he discussed it).
The problem with this hypothesis is that it wasn't the first time this imbecilic bigot displayed an inability to distinguish the relatively small group of active Islamist terrorists (numbering at best in the thousands) from the significantly larger group of people who are Muslims but do not intend to attack the United States (approximately 1 billion, representing about one-sixth of the world population, a few million of whom live here in the United States). Tancredo caused an uproar two years ago when he leveled the same threat on a talk-radio program in Florida. In a July 2005 op-ed, Tancredo answered his critics thusly:
Many critics of my statements have characterized them as "offensive," and indeed they may have offended some. But in this battle against fundamentalist Islam, I am hardly preoccupied with political correctness, or who may or may not be offended. Indeed, al-Qaeda cares little if the Western world is "offended" by televised images of hostages beheaded in Iraq, subway bombings in London, train attacks in Madrid, or Americans jumping to their death from the Twin Towers as they collapsed. … Until "mainstream" Islam can bring itself to stop rationalizing terrorist attacks … this war will continue. As long as this war goes on, being "offended" should be the least of anyone's worries.
Tancredo is, of course, right that many mainstream Muslims have rationalized terrorist attacks against the West. But (at risk of belaboring the obvious) many mainstream Muslims have not. How destruction of Islam's holiest sites could possibly represent appropriate punishment even for the trash-talkers is not immediately obvious. More prosaically, how exactly do you win a war against the world's second-most-popular religion? We tried it during the Crusades. It was a really good effort, but it didn't work. True, now we have nukes. But they have nukes, too, congressman. Ever visited Jerusalem? If not, I suggest you take the wife and kids there soon, because you won't have the opportunity after you put your homeland defense plan into action.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Photograph of Tom Tancredo by Win McNamee/Getty Images. Photograph of Mecca on Slate's home page by Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images.