If you generally avoid conservative media, you may not realize that the right has thrown a fit over its latest Villain of the Week. It’s not President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Attorney General Eric Holder. Rather, it’s U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
On Monday’s edition of “Hardball” here on msnbc, Harf talked with host Chris Matthews about ISIS and explained that the United States can’t “kill our way out” of the problem.
“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term – medium and longer term – to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups. […]“You’re right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and combatting violent extremism, but if we can help countries work at the root causes of this – what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business? Maybe we can try to chip away at this problem, while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, and helping our partners around the world.”
The right went from zero to apoplexy in record time. Conservative blogs could hardly contain their outrage, while Fox News spent yesterday playing snippets of Harf’s interview, over and over again, as some kind of attempt at mockery.
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle said Harf believes “we should open up car wash that’s in Iraq and Syria and provide jobs to the evil doers, and then these problems will all go away.” Fox’s Bill O’Reilly called Harf’s comments “nonsense.” Fox’s Brit Hume added, “What [Harf] said was manifestly silly.” Fox’s Eric Bolling called the State Department official’s comments “incomprehensible.”
I guess we were due for a manufactured controversy rooted in nothing, and the right pretending to be upset with President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast remarks didn’t have legs, so we’re stuck with Marie Harf leading far-right personalities to reach for the fainting couch.
In fairness, Harf was clearly inviting trouble when she told a national audience, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” Wait, did I say that was Harf? Actually, that’s what Mitt Romney said during a 2012 presidential debate.
But clearly Harf was out of line when she said combating poverty “is an answer to terror,” right? Well, actually it was George W. Bush who said that.
Look, from time to time, the right needs a new toy to play with. It doesn’t have to make sense, but if conservatives aren’t outraged by a perceived foe saying something they deem offensive, the right gets visibly uncomfortable. It’s entirely possible Harf became the Villain of the Week because some Republicans are just bored.
But for grown-ups, condemning Marie Harf’s comments is pointless. She articulated a vision plenty of officials, in both parties, have presented many times – a forceful confrontation with terrorists in the short term, coupled with a more comprehensive approach that prevents terrorism in the longer term. Why is this controversial? It’s not. Just as important, those whining the loudest probably know it’s not.
If you want to see the whole Harf interview, instead of the parts Fox found amusing, the clip is below. She was also on msnbc this morning, clarifying the comments that, to my mind, didn’t need clarification.