RE: Hillary Clinton and the Art of Getting It Exactly Wrong

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.