In his brief statement today, President Obama said both that the FBI is investigating the Boston Marathon bombing as an act of terrorism and that "we don't know who did it or why," adding that it's not clear if the deaths and dismemberments at the marathon finish line were caused by a terrorist organization or by a "malevolent individual."

News reporters have been urgently concerned with how long it would take President Obama to label the tragedy in Boston an act of terror, as Brian Beutler points out in Talking Points Memo: "Salivating over the T-word," as Beutler calls the press obsession, amounts to reporters providing opposition research for Republicans. Reporters assume Republicans will try to make political hay over what the President says about Boston, the same way they did over the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. That's the story they are chasing.

What a weird country we live in.

What difference does it make whether Obama calls this awful tragedy terrorism -- or how soon he uses the word?

Aside from the political "gotcha" involved in accusing the President of not adequately assessing the danger or protecting us from a terrorist plot, there is the desire to see the President put the country on a war footing. The people who think it's important that Obama start talking about terrorism speak to some deeply held idea that it shows strength and leadership to call out our country's enemies -- that doing so will allow us to strike back, and make us safe.

It's an illusory idea, of course. No amount of posturing by the President is likely to make us safe.

Consider that the most recent tragedy to engulf us, before Boston, was the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

A team from Newtown ran in the Boston Marathon yesterday, completing the course just before the explosions went off. Hometown supporters were in the crowd near the finish line.

Was Sandy Hook an act of terrorism?

No one seems too worried about the question.

In Washington, after months of debate and discussion, Republicans and NRA-allied Democrats have beaten back efforts to prevent malevolent individuals like the Sandy Hook shooter from getting their hands on assault rifles or high-capacity magazines that spray bullets into crowds.

So much for keeping us safe.

In his response to the Boston bombing today, President Obama hit the right notes, emphasizing the country's empathy with the victims and their families, and the determination to help and to heal. But he also responded to the strange politics of the moment by expertly threading the needle. Any time someone uses bombs against civilians, it is "an act of terror," the President said, even though we still don't know if the bombings were the work of a terrorist network or a lone nut.

Either way, an eight-year-old boy with a "million-dollar smile" is dead. Either way, the surreal scenes of runners who lost their legs won't get out of our heads. Either way, those poor neighbors and friends of the runners from Newtown need to be comforted and reassured, as we all do after these awful acts of violence intrude in what should be peaceful, daily life.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Progressives Say They'll Primary Dems Who Vote for Chained CPI."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.



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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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