Home > Right-Wing Extremism > Just Yet Another Right-Wing Presidential Death Threat, That’s All

Just Yet Another Right-Wing Presidential Death Threat, That’s All

November 23rd, 2009

It is amazing how blasé conservatives can be about making death threats against the president of the United States. Ever since the campaign, when McCain and Palin whipped up their crowds so much about Obama being some mysterious, faceless Muslim terrorist cypher that you started hearing “Kill him!” from the crowd, there have been overt death threats against Obama from the right–and this doesn’t seem to spark much attention in the “liberal” media.

Remember when Obama did town halls just three months ago and an armed protester outside held up a sign which advocated the killing of tyrants–and the guy was saying that Obama was a tyrant. I contrasted that with the Bush days, when all you had to do was wear a T-shirt critical of Bush along a parade route and you’d get arrested.

Well, now they’ve gone even further: they are now selling presidential death threats on t-shirts, mugs, teddy bears, and all other kinds of gear. The threat: Psalm 109:8, as pictured on the t-shirt above right. The psalm reads:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Now, that doesn’t sound too bad–just a desire to see Obama lose in the 2012 elections, right? Except that the psalm immediately following, Psalm 109:9 reads:

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

One can assume the praying “for” Obama is a sick, ironic joke. And that’s where the problem comes in. While there may be some who only know about or intend just the “let another take his office” bit, there can be no doubt that the majority who use this, and certainly the people who created and sold the merchandise, knew full well what the full reading implies.

I know, I know–it’s all commonplace now. But I don’t feel like treating it as commonplace. It is illegal:

§ 871: Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance … any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, … or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

A 35-year old student was sentenced to 35 years in prison for 11 counts of threatening the lives of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. A man already in prison was sentenced to an additional 6 years and 5 months for threatening Bush and a federal judge–even though it was determined that he was highly unlikely to carry out such a threat. There were many more. And while it has happened under Obama, one sees open threats against him which are commonly ignored–and more importantly, treated as inconsequential by the media.

This kind of threat should taken seriously, and be investigated as such. It was wrong under Bush, and it’s wrong now (a t-shirt parodying “Kill Bill” but with the name “Bush” instead was similarly banned–and was exactly as wrong). Most likely the reason it’s not being prosecuted as much now is because if it were, and the threat was made by someone other than an overt criminal, then the ones prosecuted would almost certainly become famous martyrs spurring even bolder threats and even acts of violence. We’ve already seen paranoia about Obama imprisoning political opponents–were one of those critics to violate § 871 and be prosecuted for it, we’d get a storm of right-winger saying, “See! I told you so!!”

So let’s simply be satisfied with identifying the political movement for what it is.

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  1. Troy
    November 23rd, 2009 at 18:16 | #1

    Three years in the pen.


    “No, I think they engage in these codes not because they’re effective protection or because they’re funny, but because they get a rise out of approximating what they think being clever might feel like. These codes may not be clever, but they feel clever to people who aren’t really used to exercising their brain cells. To understand these threats, your brain needs to take two admittedly tiny steps, but those are two more steps than these assholes are used to putting their brains through, so it feels like what they imagine it must feel like to be one of those people who are actually clever and use their brains all the time. These non-jokes also function as jargon, language that only the insiders of the wingnut tribe use, which helps create a group identity, the people Sarah Palin likes to call “Real Americans”.”


    I see a real behavioral complex centered on religion. Religion tells one that that person and his community of believers is right, and, contrary to appearances, the act of belief is part of a narcissistic act of putting/keeping the the believer in the center of the universe. Faith is simply the positive assertion of having figured the Universe out. How presumptuous!

    Here’s former Governor Palin speaking in friendly confines not too long ago:


    the smug if subtle substitution/co-identification of the personal with the supernatural (pray for God’s will to be done [to help us]) is simply faulty thinking and could very well be the ruin of America.

    How I miss Japan, with its 90%+ atheism, where any active belief is generally seen as the crackpottery it really is.

  2. Mark
    November 26th, 2009 at 13:36 | #2

    I can’t think of any decision’s of Obama’s I agree with, but this t-shirt is wrong. No one should ever wish the death of anyone, especially a father and husband of two young girls–let alone the President of the US.

    That said, this t-shirt has nothing to do with religion. It’s easy to quote the Bible to make a point, but that doesn’t make it a religious statement. There will always be crackpots on the fringes of either side of a debate who are best ignored–although threats against the President should be, and are taken seriously.

    This t-shirt isn’t about religion; it’s easy to quote the Bible, or any other text or statement to suit one’s own purposes. So, I’m not sure I understand Troy’s divergence into religion and Sarah Palin. First, what behavioral complex is based on religion? Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t lie seem to be pretty reasonable behaviors to discourage. And, if a former governor of a small (in population) state believes in God, how is that a threat. She may run for President or city council…so don’t vote for her. So, she believes in God…I started watching the video, but couldn’t get past the smutty sexual comments by some genius, who apparently is threatened by an attractive conservative female. So, I don’t know what ruinous statements she made, but I think it’s pretty hard to find a US President who didn’t express some religious faith (obviously some stronger than others).

    This is a religious (Christian) country, and I personally think we’re better for it. After our arguably religion based revolution, France tried a “rational” revolution that resulted in chaos, mass executions, and eventually a dictatorship under Napoleon. How’d that work out?

    With popular media, TV, movies, and the press having a decidedly un-Christian/religious view pressing on society daily, I’m not sure what the big threat of religion, or a soccer mom of five, who quit her last job, is? Unless she’s right, and Troy’s not.



  3. Tim Kane
    November 26th, 2009 at 21:11 | #3

    The Rascalian Pretext rears its ugly head.

    “People are at their worst when they are least accountable for their actions.”

    – M. Scott Peck, M.D. “People of the Lie: The hope for curing human evil.” (Paraphrased from memory)

    “As for myself, I would never tell a lie. But for Germany I would tell 10,000 lies.”
    – Adolph Hitler, according to David Irving (noted Hitler appologist) in “Hitler’s War”

    “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
    – Barry Goldwater, Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, Republican Convention 1964

    “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
    – Samuel Johnson

    For those with a yearning to do violence or manifest hate into violence, there’s nothing more empowering than finding a way to avoid being accountable for one’s actions.

    And in the above quotes we find an apologist for Hitler, apparently attempting to point out what he thought was Hitler’s honest moral character. But in fact, thanks to Dr. M. Scott Peck, we realize that he’s actually damning Hitler in the worst possible way.

    According to Irving, Hitler hid behind the lofty notion of German nationalism to avoid being accountable for his actions.

    19 years after Hitler’s death, we find Barry Goldwater, the godfather of today’s movement conservativism, in the most prominent speech of his life, essentially do the same thing.

    Now, I don’t want to mix Goldwater with Hitler – there is, after all, a big difference between saying something in a speech at a political convention on the one hand and destroying the exercise of democracy in Germany, starting a war that killed more than 20 million people and directly murdering more than ten million in death camps and creating unimaginable suffering.

    But there’s the desire to avoid accountability, which really we all would like, but also is the gateway to devils of our worst nature. Shedding accountability is empowering, and as much of a thrill as feeling one is also clever. Perhaps like gambling addicts, these people are just chasing the buzz of an addiction.

    By couching their worst instincts in religious terms – and note, as Christians they sure spend a lot of time emphasizing old testament stuff instead of Christ’s commandment to not mix religion and civics – they are able to hide from themselves, a sense of accountability for their actions.

    The quote attributable to Samuel Johnson is applicable here: Religion is the last refuge of scoundrals. But for good measure, it’s religion and patriotism all mixed towards perverted ends.

    I like to call the use of lofty notions to hide oneself and ones own conscience from accountability the “Rascalian Pretext” (rascal being a synonym for scoundrel)

  4. November 27th, 2009 at 14:38 | #4

    It’s worth noting that the entire Psalm in question is actually a prayer for someone’s death and destruction. It’s not just “we hope he’s not in office very long!” but is actually a plea for God to utterly destroy the enemy.

    [i]And, if a former governor of a small (in population) state believes in God, how is that a threat.[/i]

    It’s not, really. What’s a threat is when someone is going to justify their decisions on public policy based on their personal religious beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with having someone in office who believes in God; heck, Barack Obama is a Christian who believes in God (despite the fact that he was raised by a agnostic mother).

    The difference between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin is that he’s not going to make public policy and base it on what he says God told him to do. Further, he’s not touting his religious beliefs as though it makes him BETTER and somehow more real, to get votes; but Palin makes her belief a big part of her appeal to people.

    The problem with doing that is it threatens everyone’s religious freedom- unless of course they happen to belong to the particular branch of a particular religion that happens to be in favor among the leaders.

    Which brings me to the next point…

    [i]This is a religious (Christian) country, and I personally think we’re better for it. After our arguably religion based revolution…

    With popular media, TV, movies, and the press having a decidedly un-Christian/religious view pressing on society daily, I’m not sure what the big threat of religion, or a soccer mom of five, who quit her last job, is? Unless she’s right, and Troy’s not.[/i]

    A) Don’t be ridiculous. The American Revolution had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the corrupt, overbearing British government. This is NOT a “religious” nation; not only does our nation’s most basic Law, the Constitution, not say anything about this being a “religious” nation, but it expressly says that the United States is NOT one where any kind of religion is endorsed or required for officeholders.

    You can “argue” that it was a religious based revolution, but if you did, you’d be laughed at, because it’s a stupid, ignorant argument. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.

    B) Do you honestly think that the popular media, TV, movies, and the press all push a decidedly “un-Christian/religious view”? Because again, you’re wrong.

    Despite all of BillO’s wailing about the war on Christmas (has that whine started yet this holiday season?) the reality is that the popular media in the USA is very Christian-based. Trust me- I’m a Buddhist and many people cannot even conceive of a religion outside of the mainstream, let alone no religion at all.

    We’re a nation made up of religious people, but we’re not a religious nation. There’s a pretty important difference there. One’s religion isn’t supposed to have anything to do with their ability to hold office, but you can bet that it’s an acid test in the Republican Party in most areas and on a national level.

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