My column today, "Coddling a Terrorist Costs Votes," considers the astonishing centrality of Sami Al-Arian, an indicted ringleader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in the Florida race for U.S. Senate between Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Betty Castor. I approve of this focus, seeing in the debate over Islamist violence a chance to discuss a key topic of American life in a direct and specific way.
Well, I seem to be nearly alone in approving of this debate. Here are some other reactions, ranging from negative to scornful to deprecating:
- Betty Castor, Democratic candidate for Senate: "It's very unfortunate that this has become such a trigger issue in the campaign."
- The Associated Press: terrorism has "drowned out contrasting views held by the candidates on [other] issues."
- The Miami Herald: the ad campaign is a "distraction" because Florida's next senator "will deal with far more important issues than the fate of professor Sami al-Arian."
- The Palm Beach Post: the campaign is a "single-themed shoutfest" which focuses on a topic the paper finds not "relevant" to a U.S. Senate race.
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The incident has been blown way out of proportion."
- The Orlando Sentinel: the debate has "spun nearly out of control."
- The St. Petersburg Times: the candidates are "fearmongering" and they must "stop trying to exploit the Al-Arian case for political gain and focus on more important issues."
- The Tallahassee Democrat: "attack ads have threatened to turn the contest into a referendum on national security" (implying this is a bad thing).
Then there is this insightful comment:
- The Daytona Beach News-Journal: "The Martinez-Castor race is now the single dumbest Senate race in America."
Even Tim Russert of NBC, the moderator of a debate between the two candidates, tried to get them to stop their campaign advertising about Al-Arian.
Comment: Why do all these influential voices so disapprove of the Sami Al-Arian debate? Could it be that, along with Betty Castor, they just don't think Islamist terror is all that important? (October 19, 2004)