How Not to React to the Boston Bombing

The rush to blame these Boston horrors on the right, on the tea party and on American conservatives is mystifying.

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For the first time in a long while a terrorist attack on U.S. soil has injured the national psyche and taken the lives of American citizens.

There have been several mass shootings – like the one that occurred at Ft. Hood. But in the years since 9/11, thanks to the diligence of countless people working in the intelligence and national security sector and in federal, state, and local law enforcement, the nation has been remarkably free of disasters like the one that came crashing vividly into our living rooms on Monday.

The explosions that went off near the end of the iconic Boston Marathon are a chilling, jarring reminder that the war on terror continues, no matter how much some politicians in Washington may wish to pretend otherwise.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Boston Marathon bombings.]

It is all too easy to rush to judgment. It remains possible – but looks increasingly unlikely - that what happened Monday in Boston was the work of what might loosely be referred to as "a lone, angry nut" or some kind of "wannabe." The attack, the method, the kind of bomb all suggest the person or person who planted the bombs were affiliated with an organized terrorist group recognizable to U.S. security agencies and the public at large.

The FBI and other federal agencies are operating on that assumption, according to published reports. The president, while initially reluctant to label the bombing an act of terror, has also apparently come around to that view, but not before considerable back and forth in the press over why he had failed to label it "terrorism" when speaking from the podium in the White House briefing room.

The New York Post, the Associated Press and other outlets initially reported that the Boston Police had in custody a Saudi national in the United States on a student visa who might be connected to the bombing. As the story unfolded he went from “suspect” to “person of interest” and now, most recent reports suggest, to witness. Ultimately he may be found to have nothing whatsoever to do with attack and simply be a person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He is getting the benefit of the doubt. Would that it be that way for everyone, as there are those who seem hell bent on dragging American conservatives and advocates for limited government into the discussion of who might be responsible.

[PHOTOS: Deadly Explosions Hit Boston Marathon]

We've seen this before. After the tragedy in Oklahoma City, for example, a number of people – including President Bill Clinton – had the temerity to suggest that the perpetrators might have been motivated to act because of the messages they were receiving from conservative talk radio. 

So too it is with the Boston bombing. According to a report on Breitbart.com, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen suggested shortly after the attack occurred that it may have been the work of American conservatives. "If it was more conventional explosives, which are much harder to get a hold of now, that might be some other kind of right-wing extremists (italics added)," Bergen said according to the conservative web site. "We've seen a number of failed bombing attempts by Al Qaeda using bombs ... We've also seen other extremist groups attacking, right-wing groups, for instance trying to attack the Martin Luther King parade in Oregon in 2010."

In yet another diversion from the obvious, as reported by The Weekly Standard, former senior White House adviser David Axelrod – who is still close to the president – suggested Obama initially shied away from calling the Boston bombing a terrorist attack because it was "Tax Day," implying it might be some kind of anti-government protest.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

The rush to blame these horrors on the right, on the tea party, on American conservatives is mystifying. There is little to any record of legitimate conservative groups having engaged in such tactics in anything close to recent memory. The anarchists and survivalists and militia groups who have committed nefarious deeds don't count – as much as some might like that to be the case. They are not conservatives; they are completely off the political spectrum and well outside the political arena.

On the other hand, some of those on the political left who participated in bombings as a means of political expression back in the 1960s and 1970s now occupy positions of authority and respect on the faculty of several elite universities.

It is a tragic day for America, one that should not be encumbered by crass political gamesmanship and finger-pointing. Let the chips fall where they may as the FBI, the ATF, and other federal agencies undertake an investigation. It is fair to ask why Boston wasn't better prepared, why the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano were not out in front of this attack, and why the CIA and NSA and other agencies did not forewarn of what was coming. Indeed tough questions will be asked – but that can wait for another day. Today is a day to mourn, to mourn and to resolve that justice will be done.

  • Read Stephanie Slade: Courageous Reporters Vital After Boston Bombing
  • Read Susan Milligan: Cable News Should Back Off Boston Terrorism Speculation
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