The oddly controversial

Rightwing Extremism

report, issued by the

Department of Homeland Security

on April 7, was officially withdrawn by Secretary

Janet Napolitano

in mid-May. The nine-page report was a routine threat assessment issued to law enforcement and counterterrorism officials that warned of the potential for a rise in homegrown terrorists. It concluded that the combination of an economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president could cultivate a right-wing “resurgence in radicalization and recruitment,” including among disgruntled veterans.

Conservatives immediately claimed that the threat assessment was a politically motivated attack on Republicans. Texas Representative

John Carter

suggested that the report was evidence of “a level of contempt for a healthy democracy” and demanded Napolitano’s ouster, even though the assessment was initiated during the Bush administration. Columnist

Michelle Malkin

wrote that “the piece of crap report…is a sweeping indictment of conservatives”–this despite the fact that the assessment never once used the word “conservative.”

When it was revealed that DHS had released a similar report on left-wing extremists three months earlier, claims of bias gave way to support for supposedly maligned veterans. The right-wing threat assessment drew unconvincing, and some said offensive, parallels between the present and the mid-’90s, when

Timothy McVeigh

, a veteran of the Gulf War, staged the second deadliest terror attack in US history. While Napolitano subsequently conceded that the report “should not have gone out,” the overblown Republican reaction to it is nonetheless significant.

Conservatives’ response–which began with outrage over a DHS report focused on “threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups” and concluded with calls for a Congressional inquiry and a lawsuit being filed by the

Thomas More Law Center

at the behest of shock jock

Michael Savage

–suggests that either Republicans did not read the threat assessment closely or that there really is something to all their incendiary, inchoate “Tea Party” ranting. We will soon find out: Napolitano has promised that the report is in the process of being “replaced or redone in a much more useful and much more precise fashion.”   CORBIN HIAR


The Nation is accepting submissions for our 2009 Student Writing Contest, sponsored by the

BIL Charitable Trust

. We’re looking for original, thoughtful student voices to answer this question: how has the recession affected you, your family or someone you know? All high school and college students are eligible. Essays should not exceed 800 words. Winners will receive $1,000, and their essays will be published in The Nation. Entries accepted through May 31. Submit to studentprize@thenation.com. Info at TheNation.com/student.