Before Tiller Murder, Palin Refused to Condemn Anti-Abortion Terrorism
As I've noted before, the distance between the incendiary rhetoric of the Republican Party and anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-government and above all anti-abortion extremism is a growing ever shorter. With Sunday's murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller, that disturbing dynamic deserves deeper examination. After all, while even arch-conservative Attorney General John Ashcroft once deemed such anti-abortion violence "terrorist," Alaska Governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin refused to "use the word there."
In May 2003, the FBI finally captured Eric Rudolph, the extremist fugitive behind the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing and a 1998 blast at a Birmingham family planning clinic that killed an off-duty policeman and seriously injured a nurse. Following Rudolph's apprehension, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft left no doubt that he considered Rudolph a terrorist:
"Today, Eric Robert Rudolph, the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list has been captured and will face American justice. American law enforcement's unyielding efforts to capture Eric Robert Rudolph have been rewarded. Working with law enforcement nationwide, the FBI always gets their man. This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent...
The American people, most importantly the victims of these terrorist attacks, can rest easier knowing that another alleged killer is no longer a threat."
Of course, to former Republican vice presidential candidate and conservative heartthrob Sarah Palin, the likes of Eric Rudolph, Dr. Bernard Slepien's assassin James Kopp or would-be Texas clinic bomber Paul Ross Evans don't qualify as terrorists. While even a hardline conservative like Ashcroft used the "T" word to describe Rudolph upon his arrest in 2003, during an October 2008 interview with NBC's Brian Williams Palin refused to similarly brand violent right-wing radicals as terrorists:
WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?
PALIN: (Sigh). There's no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There's no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there.
For its part, the GOP and its allies in the conservative movement previously portrayed today's victim as the villain. Fox News' host Bill O'Reilly long demonized Dr. Tiller. Senate Republicans even tried to block the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over donations by the Wichita physician to her past Kansas gubernatorial campaigns.
In any event, as John Ashcroft should still acknowledge, Tiller's assassin, like Rudolph and Kopp before, is a terrorist. Even if Sarah Palin won't admit it.
UPDATE 1: Previously convicted for bombmaking and tax evasion, Tiller's suspected assassin Scott Roeder is a poster child for precisely the kind of the anti-government extremism detailed in the recent DHS report on right-wing terror threats which so outraged conservatives.
UPDATE 2: In her statement Monday, Governor Palin echoed her October 2008 response that clinic bombing was "uancceptable" by announcing, "I respect the sanctity of life and the tragedy that took place today in Kansas clearly violates respect for life." But while she fretted over the political impact of Tiller's assassination ("This murder also damages the positive message of life, for the unborn, and for those living. Ask yourself, 'What will those who have not yet decided personally where they stand on this issue take away from today's event in Kansas?'"), Palin still refused to condemn the killing as an act of terrorism.