Ringside Seat: How Much Bull Could a Sen. Chuck Chuck?

When you learned that the suspects in the Boston bombing were ethnic Chechens who came to the United States as children, you may have had any number of thoughts. Chances are, though, that "I'm just glad Obamacare hasn't taken effect, otherwise they might have gotten health insurance subsidies" wasn't among them. But that seems to be where Chuck Grassley's mind went. The Iowa Republican senator said today that the Boston attack showed that we ought not pass comprehensive immigration reform too quickly. "How do we ensure," Grassley asked, "that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?"

Grassley was once considered reasonable and somewhat moderate, a legislator who would not only cross the aisle from time to time, but who could be counted on to at least go about the lawmaking business in a civil way. But somewhere along the line, Grassley went off the rails. When the Judiciary Committee was debating the Manchin-Toomey background check bill, Grassley insisted that the bill would create a national gun registry, even though the bill expressly forbade that very thing. "When registration fails, the next move will be gun confiscation," he warned. For some reason he forgot to mention United Nations' black helicopters and the need to stockpile "survival seeds."

You also might remember that during the health-care reform debate, Grassley was an enthusiastic purveyor of the "death panel" lie, telling his constituents "You have every right to be afraid" that faceless government bureaucrats would condemn their loved ones to death, and thundering, "We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."

So how did a fairly respected senator turn into the Michele Bachmann of the cornfields? Maybe it was the rising influence of the Tea Party, pulling everyone in the GOP to the right. Perhaps we'll never know. But we do know that reasonable people are in dwindling supply in today's Republican party.

So They Say

"Somebody radicalized them, but it wasn't my brother. These are the only reasons I can imagine. Anything else to do with religion, to do with Islam, is a fraud, is a fake."

Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the Boston bombing suspects

Daily Meme: While You Were Watching Cable

  • We've all been glued to the TV screen today, watching the tense action unfold in Watertown, Massachusetts, where the last Boston bombing suspect alive is being hunted by law enforcement. 
  • However, many nuances and facts don't make their way to the screen. Here are some stories you may have missed. 
  • Andrea Kramer, an attorney whose sons attended the same school as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stressed that he "wasn't 'them.' He was 'us.' He was Cambridge. This is something that happened here. The kids are trying to make sense of it. They're frustrated at people talking about him as a foreigner, because he was Cambridge." 
  • What about Chechnya? Here's a primer on the area's political past from the Council on Foreign Relations, and a story on Dagestan, the deadliest republic in North Caucasus—and the area where the Tsarnaev brothers lived before they moved to the U.S. 
  • C.J. Chivers has a great piece on the Chechen attack on a Russian school in 2004.
  • Julia Ioffe writes, "They were reared by both Chechnya and America, forged in the joining of the two through the painful, disorienting process of emigration, of accepting and being accepted by a new society, or not."
  • The city of Boston has done a remarkable job in responding to the week's horrors—but as Henry Grabar notes, they were perhaps better prepared for the impossible than most U.S. cities.
  • "Hundreds of thousands of people across the region woke up Friday morning to the surreal scene of terror on their screens. And when they looked out their windows, many could see the same thing in real time: an overwhelming show of force by heavily armed law enforcement officers."
  • The city devoid of people did create an eerie scene.
  • Could we have stopped the bombings? Jeffrey Toobin thinks not:  "If there is any lesson from the tragedies, it’s that we will never be able to identify in advance the people who wreak this type of evil."
  • But we can stop overreacting after such attacks. As Romesh Ratnesar notes in Bloomberg Businessweek, "Learning how to live with terrorism is the surest way to defeat it."


What We're Writing

  • Overwhelming coverage of the Boston manhunt has been crowding out nearly all mention of the immigration bill. If you ignore the noise, though, says Gabriel Arana, the news on immigration is a big step forward, even if it's far from perfect.
  • The torture report is out, and it says that there's no question: We did it, and we did it a lot. Will we hold any of our torturers accountable? Matt Duss thinks it's less than likely.

What We're Reading

  • Conservatives have used Boston as an excuse to spout a lot of horrible, racist, ignorant, personally damning dreck on Twitter (By the way, Ann Coulter, Bostonians aren't wishing it was easier for them to get guns, they're wishing it was harder for terrorists to get guns #BeLessDumbAlready).
  • A former Department of Homeland Security official under the Bush Administration came out today to note that the ACLU opposes widespread camera surveillance and also opposes CISPA, the Internet Patriot Act. The upshot? Since widespread camera surveillance is helping solve the Boston case, you should approve of CISPA. One of these things is not like the other, however.
  • The Washington Post wondered what kind of money you lose when you shut down a major American city for a day, and it looks something like $1 billion.
  • If CNN was going for gold in the "be first, not right" category of journalism yesterday, Reddit took over by nighttime by widely and erroneously spreading the names of two men as suspects—one who's been missing since March and whose family is desperate to find him, and another who may not even exist.
  • Farhad Manjoo wants you to know that in the age of "crowdsourced" journalism and dwindling numbers of real reporters, you're better off cleaning your gutters than listening to "breaking news."
  • The Boy Scouts of America announced today they're planning to allow asking, telling, and all other manners of being gay, as long as you're not an adult.


Rasmussen's special new fearmongering report finds that 71 percent of likely voters think that there will be a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the next 12 months. Only 11 percent of Americans believe that the country will ever be safe from terrorism, proving both that we're having a rough week and that the terrorists are winning. An earlier Rasmussen poll found that only 39 percent of the country thought the government was not working hard enough to prevent domestic Islamic terrorism, and if the Chechen brothers do turn out to be the culprits, those Americans will, at least, have been right.