This morning, I attended Peter Kinder's Capitol press conference, at which he outlined his concerns with the controversial report by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC). As has been widely reported, the document has created a "firestorm among conservatives" because it includes language stating that militia members are commonly supporters of third-party political candidates like Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr.
Here's what Peter Kinder said this morning:
I definitely share the concerns about law enforcement profiling terrorists by their political affiliations, bumper stickers or other protect speech. Most of the controversy has focused on a few sentences from page 6 of the report, as published by Bungalow Bill:
Political Paraphernalia: Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups. It is not uncommon for supporters of former militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate: Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr.
Anti-Government Propaganda: Militia members commonly display picture, cartoons, bumper stickers that contain anti-government rhetoric. Most of this material will depict the FRS, IRS, FBI, ATF, CIA, UN, Law Enforcement and "The New World Order" in a derogatory manor (sic). Additionally, Racial, anti-immigration, and anti-abortion, material may be displayed by militia members.
The language is broad, unfair and unhelpful. Looking for Ron Paul bumper stickers is not an effective or fair strategy for dealing with violent militia groups.
At the same time, I think that Kinder and others are exaggerating, oversimplifying or ignoring what the rest of the report states for their own political purposes. For instance, Kinder, the MOGOP and others have repeatedly suggested that the report broadly attacks all Christians and all people that want to outlaw abortion. This is what Kinder said this morning:
While this Modern Militia report did touch on such radical ideologies -- as well it might have -- it did so in footnote fashion as it pointed out Christians, anti-abortionists, and advocates for protecting our borders and supporters of certain political candidates as potential threats to the public safety.
First, there are no footnotes in the document (which I think is problem with the report) and I'm not sure what "footnote fashion" means. Comparing the document to Kinder's statement, it's clear that he's referring to the following passage -- which is actually printed earlier and more prominently than the offending paragraphs noted above:
Christian Identity: Religious ideology popular in extreme right-wing circles. Adherents believe that whites of European decendants can be traced back to the "Lost Tribes of Israel." Many consider Jews to be the satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent, while non-whites are "mud people" created before Adam and Eve.
Militant Abortion: Anti Abortionists have been known to take up arms in support of their beliefs. Eric Rudolph who was responsible for the Atlanta Olympic Park Bombing and abortion clinics was an anti abortionist.
Tax Resistors: This movement is strongly in opposition to the collection of federal income taxes. Individuals in this movement generally believe that income taxes are invalid or the tax laws do not apply to them.
Clearly, these paragraphs are referring to extreme, way-way-way-out-of-the-mainstream groups, and not Christians or pro-life advocates in any normal sense of the word. The Christian Identity movement is clear strain of right-wing thought -- and the report uses the language "Christian Identity" because that's what the movement is called. Considering the report as a whole, any suggestions that the Highway Patrol thinks Christians or abortion opponents are "potential threats to the public safety" just don't make sense.
Also: after digesting the clips and report for the past few days, there are a few questions swirling about in my mind regarding how the report was created, and the desire to pin all of this on Governor Nixon:
- The grammar and spelling problems suggest that few people really reviewed this before it was released.**
- On Page 3, the report twice refers to "President Elect Obama", suggesting that it was created some time ago, during a previous administration.
- Van Godsey, MIAC's director since it was formed in 2005, isn't a Nixon appointee. In fact, before serving on MIAC, he worked as an investigator for Kenny Hulshof.
I don't bring up these points to defend the MIAC report's language about third-party candidates, or to defend any profiling by political affiliation or protected speech. At all. But at the same time, I don't see how the errors and problems contained in the document give critics the license to exaggerate and misrepresent what's actually there, or how it was created. Reporters' repeating these mischaracterizations doesn't help matters either.
**Was Ed Martin's description of the report in today's News-Leader article weird, or what?
"When I first read it ... I thought to myself, 'This looks like a Missouri State University fraternity brother wrote something and put it on state letterhead and sent it out.'"