Hamas and the GOP are both terrorist groups — it's just a matter of degree

Most Americans understand the truth about Donald Trump and his followers: They're deranged, violent and dangerous

By Brian Karem


Published October 12, 2023 9:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Jim Jordan (Getty/Salon)
Donald Trump; Jim Jordan (Getty/Salon)

Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

At a funeral for a dear friend on Wednesday, his widow approached me and said she didn’t know who she was anymore. She was used to being a couple, and now she was not.

We shared tears and afterward I thought about what she’d said and realized I’d heard the exact sentiment expressed in nearly the same fashion — only from members of Congress, talking about politics. It made me shiver to realize the possible implications of that.

The last week on the world stage has been filled with events sure to bring tears, not to mention deep concern about the longevity and viability of the human species. Our world seems filled with insanity and our culture led by maniacs, while those who oppose the maniacs often seem nearly as insane.

John Lennon sang, “Give peace a chance,” and in an infamous interview during the height of the War in Vietnam reflected upon the insanity of world leaders who seemed intent on destroying the world and ruling over the rubble.  His 83rd birthday came at the very beginning of the latest war in the Middle East. It begs the question, “How can we give peace a chance when we’re busy beating each other to death?”

Consider the facts. The attack on Israel by Hamas led to a rare public appearance in the Rose Garden, where Joe Biden ticked off a list of Hamas atrocities, including slaughtering innocent civilians at a left-leaning kibbutz, and at a now-infamous overnight rave. 

“Entire families slain,” the president said. “Babies killed. Young people massacred while attending a musical festival to celebrate peace.” The atrocities included rape, assault and parading human hostages as trophies.

There is no justification for terrorism. Period. “There is no excuse,” Biden reminded us.

Sure, show me a country free of the atrocities the president outlined. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t right about Hamas, and that he wasn’t right to call it out. And he’s absolutely right to want to do something about it. He vowed that the U.S. will stand by Israel. Biden’s reaction was far better than those of certain toddlers in the GOP, who immediately — and without attribution or any facts to back it up — found ways to link Biden to the actions of Hamas.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina posted on X that Biden’s weakness invited the attack on Israel. He claimed that Biden told Israel to stand down after the attack, which is an absolute lie, and called the president “complicit” in the attack.

Leading Republicans found ways to link Joe Biden to the criminal acts of Hamas, without evidence and through childish and shameful lies.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority leader and the leading candidate to become the next speaker of the House, wrote on X: “The Biden administration must be held accountable for its appeasement of these Hamas terrorists, including handing over billions of dollars to them and their Iranian backers.” That claim is also a lie, on multiple levels.

Others accused the president of selling out America’s closest ally in the Middle East. Biden’s response was curt: “Let me say again — to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t. Our hearts may be broken, but our resolve is clear.”

That’s where the president went sideways. His resolve is clear, but the resolve of Congress is another matter. In the House, at any rate, Republicans are too busy fighting over who will rule over the rubble. While the fight for the speaker’s gavel continues to play out in all its splendor, the GOP — which has repeatedly shown that it cannot govern — is busy blaming the Democrats in general and Biden specifically for all manner of ills afflicting the planet, including but not limited to the Hamas attack, the war in Ukraine, climate change, the GOP’s failure to govern, COVID-19, Chinese saber-rattling and gingivitis. 

Instead of even trying to govern, they squabble among themselves like a school of cannibalistic piranhas. Instead of proposing solutions, they merely try to shift blame.

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These actions leave many Americans feeling like widows to democracy. We were married to it, and it died. Now we do not know who we are, and we have to settle for hatred and petty squabbles while the world seems to burn around us. More than one member of Congress — on both sides of the aisle — has wondered how their political opponents can completely ignore the facts. “We’re supposed to be in this thing together,” more than one has lamented.

Everyone has a problem with facts from time to time, especially if the facts conflict with your preconceived notions of truth. 

The best of us learn from our mistakes, or at least try to do so. Very few of these people are Republican office holders.

Many Americans feel like widows to democracy. We were married to it, and then it died. Now we don't know who we are.

Here there be dragons. Chaos in a blender. Hunter S. Thompson-style hallucinogenic mayhem — without the humor, style or intelligence. Just a wicked trip of meth, molly and caffeine played out over too much sweat, too little bathing, an amoral attitude and a complete lack of common sense. And in the end, even the survivors don’t know who they are any more.

This is the GOP’s legacy. And let’s be clear: It’s not Donald Trump’s legacy. He’s merely the unavoidable symptom of the deadly cancer that has devoured the Republican Party from within. He’s the lump on your latest X-ray of our nation’s lungs.

Jim Jordan, at one time considered the “Man Who Would Be King” in the House of Representatives, is now merely a political termite. He’s good at chewing away at the place if you want to bring it all down, but he can’t build a consensus among three people, even if they all agree with him.

That may explain why by midweek, for the first time in a very long time, Donald Trump and the rest of the idiots in the GOP did not dominate the news. The reality of thousands dying in the Middle East overshadows the sideshow barker who complains that he had every right to keep classified information, while at the same time claiming he didn’t have it. 

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But unfortunately the world is run by older men who would not abandon their own peace, but are eager to urge younger men and women to do so. They are terrorists like the leaders of Hamas. They are despots like Vladimir Putin. They are men like Donald Trump, who has never gone without a meal or lacked the social lubricant of money his entire life, and yet has convinced millions he is the answer to all our problems.

Trump and many other politicians in this country are not so different from the craziest leaders in many foreign nations. They preach division. They preach hate. They teach fear. Scalise and Scott are part of the GOP that ruthlessly and relentlessly demonizes political opponents — who are not supposed to be “enemies” — no matter the cost. United We Stand? Not so much with those two and other leading Republicans, but facts matter little to them. Only power. 

There is little difference between Scott, Scalise and Hamas. 

Further, there is little or no difference between most of the GOP leadership, including Jim Jordan and Donald Trump, and the leaders of Hamas. Both groups will do anything they can to win. Both groups have engaged in atrocities. Both groups continue to lie. Both groups use human beings as hostages. Both groups are extremely dangerous. Both groups threaten the world’s internal and external peace.

The fact is, many Americans viscerally understand this: Donald Trump and his followers are terrorists.

That’s exactly why the majority of Americans cringe when they hear anything about D.C. politics. They fear the cancer is spreading. 

Many Americans viscerally understand this: Donald Trump and his followers are terrorists. That's why so many people cringe when they hear about politics in D.C. They fear the cancer is spreading.

If we can try to look at the big picture, just for a minute, a couple of things become clear. First, while many of us feel trepidation at the ongoing onslaught of sleaze and violence, the world has been doing this stuff since man first walked out of the caves. Just watch the first scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” if you need clarification. True, we are a much more connected world than when the Australopithecines roamed the earth striking each other with the jawbones of asses, but we are still enmeshed in the tribal mentality of prehistoric hunters, even as we possess enough firepower to scorch the earth to a blackened cinder.

Man, if that doesn’t give you pause, then nothing will.

The second thing to consider in the bigger picture is this: When will this nonsense end? Hopefully it doesn’t all end with a bang or a whimper. I’d personally prefer a “Star Trek” universe. A show of hands? Extinction, or the United Federation of Planets?

At the end of my friend’s funeral, I flipped through the program that had been provided. On the back page, I found the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me a channel of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me bring love

In my small effort to bring hope where there is despair, I am reminded of another passage, this one attributed to King Solomon: “This too shall pass.”

But let’s be honest: Waiting for this damn kidney stone of current American politics to pass is like trying to pass a pumpkin through a soda straw.

I remain hopeful that no matter how difficult the current situation seems, this too shall pass and we’ll soon be on to better things — perhaps including “boldly going where no one has gone before.”  

I still have my 1968 Captain Kirk Halloween outfit, just in case.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Commentary Congress Gaza Hamas Israel Jim Jordan Joe Biden Kevin Mccarthy Republicans Steve Scalise Terrorism War