Every once in a while, there comes along a member of Congress who is not only eccentric, but borderline wacky, not to mention a fear monger. One of the leading examples is Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), representing a very conservative, heavily-churched district in Charlotte.
It is difficult to understand why, in an election-year series of articles, the Charlotte Observer is giving dramatic, front-page coverage to the alarmist notions of Rep. Myrick on the subject of Islam and terrorism that begins at home. Its progressive editorial board, incidentally, has often endorsed her. Yet, she has frequently demonstrated that she is little more than a right-wing fringe lawmaker with very little clout in Congress over eight terms.
The recent front-page coverage has run from "Myrick Videos Warn of Terrorism: Charlotte lawmaker says Fort Hood shootings and airplane bombing attempt are 'tips of the iceberg'" to the extra-large-type headline: "Rep. Myrick, Muslims Defend and Debate." And it will continue. She has found her defining issue in the quest for re-election.
Myrick, a founder of the House Anti-Terrorism Caucus which is not connected to any standing committee of the House, over the years had repeatedly warned that Americans were not being told there are homegrown jihadists willing to blow themselves up to hurt fellow citizens, and that the Internet is a medium for radicalization in influencing Muslim citizens to attack their own country. She even warned President George W. Bush that Americans were uninformed on these matters!
In other words, these suspicions came to her well before she was privy to classified information as a new member of the House Intelligence Committee, as of 2009. Now she cannot tell the public what she has learned: "I can't tell you... There's a threat out there to our security... It's worse than I thought," she told the Charlotte Observer. There's more.
The 68-year-old Congresswoman launched an ongoing YouTube video series back in January. In the first video, called Beyond Terrorism: The Whole Story, she warns that extremists live in our midst, "even in positions in our government." But the wide-eyed Myrick tells the camera: "You're not being told the whole story... This is something that nobody ever tells you."
[These videos may be found on the Charlotte Observer's website thanks to the in-depth reporting of McClatchy Washington correspondent, Barbara Barrett: firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Last October the Congresswoman accused the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of secretly planting spies on Capitol Hill by trying to get Muslim interns hired in Congressional offices. She was joined in the accusation by Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). The four lawmakers quoted from a publication entitled Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America, on the day of its release.
The foreword to the book had been written by Rep. Myrick. Immediately following the news conference, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) -- the chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on which Myrick serves -- sent out a letter denouncing "reckless attempts to blacklist an entire ethno-religious group."
Of late, Myrick has even suggested that some universities -- such as Harvard and Georgetown -- are being wrongly subverted by a brand of Islam common to Saudi Arabia known as Wahabism.
(Barbara Barrett's February 25 story in the Charlotte Observer, "Myrick Looks to Heal Long Rift with Muslims," contains numerous quotes from the Representative, and from moderate Muslims and academic experts on Islam.)
On February 25, Sue Myrick convened a tense two-hour "town hall" meeting in Charlotte, with Muslims constituting most of the audience. The event was heavily covered by local TV stations. At times, there was a frenzied quality to her behavior on the podium.
As reported by religion reporter Tim Funk on February 26 -- "Rep. Myrick, Muslims Defend and Debate" -- Ms. Myrick continued to argue that the threat of homegrown Islamist terrorism is real and defended herself against charges by local Muslims that she was spreading fear about their religion.
Myrick said she had agreed to the town hall meeting to "build bridges" with her moderate Muslim constituents, and invited them to join her in opposing those who she said were "trying to hijack" Islam. "I'm talking about the sympathizers and supporters of a radical agenda...It's not that all Muslims are bad or all Muslims are trying to do this," she reportedly said.
But many of the comments from Muslim attendees revealed feelings of anger toward the lawmaker. For example, as reported by Tim Funk, Najeeb Karimi asked Myrick why she had not been as devoted to wiping out and labeling other forms of homegrown terrorists, such as the Texas man who recently flew his plane into a federal building in Austin to protest the IRS. "Is this terrorism?" he asked Myrick. "(Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVeigh? Is that Christian terrorism?"
After cutting off the questions with people still in line, Myrick turned the microphone over to Zuhdi Jasser, a conservative political ally and a Muslim physician who heads the Islamic Forum for Democracy. He accused many moderate Muslims, including those in the audience, of being in denial about the "cancer" of radical Islam. Based on Jasser's comments, Rose Hamid -- the former head of Muslim Women of the Carolinas--said after the meeting: "(Myrick's) goal was not necessarily to listen to the Muslims, but to deliver her message to the Muslims."
This was probably the point for the staged framework of the meeting from the beginning: little Sue Myrick taking on the threat from dangerous Islam.
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Homeland Security, has pointedly observed that any member of Congress with details about a legitimate threat should take it to the FBI. "I'm convinced we can do that without profiling, without stigmatizing whole groups."
If Myrick has any details about a legitimate threat to national security from radical Muslims infiltrating the federal government, she could go to the FBI. Alternatively, she could follow in the footsteps of the deceased Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wisc.) -- another fear monger -- and name names and provide numbers of terrorists who lurk inside our governmental institutions. But, of course, "I can't tell you" -- says this new member of the House Intelligence Committee -- because it is secret information.