“Barack Obama does not define the terror issue clearly. Here’s why.”
So began a bizarre rant from Bill O’Reilly on his show last night, in which the Fox News anchor accused the president of not addressing ISIS for the threat they pose to America because of his “emotional connection” to the Muslim world.
Questioning Obama’s loyalty to America by implying that he is a secret Muslim, or in O’Reilly’s case last night, that he is secretly sympathetic to the religious beliefs of ISIS fighters, has been on the first page of the conservative playbook for the past eight years. What made last night remarkable was the bizarre analogy O’Reilly used to prove his point.
After detailing Obama’s “connections” to Islam, including showing pictures of him apparently attending the wedding of his half brother in traditional garb and, years later, giving a speech to a Muslim audience, O’Reilly used his own reaction to the Catholic church’s molestation scandal as a model of the correct way to call out religious institutions.
“Like Barack Obama, I do make the distinction between the faith and the people who abuse it,” O’Reilly said, before playing a clip from 2002 in which he distinguished between the church’s teachings and its leaders.
“But here’s where I depart from the president,” he continued. “I went after the leaders of the Catholic church with a vengeance … Barack Obama should do what I did — aggressively call out those who abuse the Muslim faith, who commit atrocities under a religious banner. He should make defeating the jihad a central issue, and stop trying to diminish Islamic terrorism by avoiding the simple truth: radical Islam is a direct threat to the entire world.”
And on and on.
But wait a second. O’Reilly separated in his argument the Catholic church from those who distorted its message and purpose in order to abuse kids. He blamed individuals, not the religion, for their actions.
Is Obama doing any different? His administration has plainly said that it doesn’t use the term “radical Islamic terror” because doing so concedes a major point of ISIS propaganda — that they represent Islam.
Ask any of the thousands of people who live in constant fear of President Obama’s drone program if the president isn’t making an effort to pursue extremists across the globe. Many would say the seemingly indiscriminate deaths of civilians at the hands of that program aren’t worth the severe impact it has made on ISIS leadership.
So what is Bill O’Reilly’s real motivation? It’s the same as its always been: To tie conspiracies about the president’s own religion and family heritage to his administration’s refusal to use the term “radical Islamic terror.” It’s the same implication Donald Trump makes every day, ever since he blazed a trail in the birther movement: Obama’s “ties” to Islam force him into traitorous double allegiances. Nothing new under the sun.