Marathon bombing madness: Is this the new normal?


People walk and dine along Boylston Street near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Boylston Street, the site of both bombings, finally fully reopened to the public Wednesday.


Mario Tama

BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — The president has come and gone, delivering words of healing. Neil Diamond and James Taylor made cameo appearances, and, most importantly, the Red Sox won their first post-marathon game at Fenway. Traffic once again flows down Boylston Street, and businesses are reopening, one by one.

But as Boston slowly and painfully returns to “the new normal,” reality is starting to set in.

It isn’t pretty.

For a brief time the nation united to support the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing; now the fault lines are once again beginning to appear.

It started with a raging debate over the fate of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the attack.

Tsarnaev is a US citizen, who allegedly committed a heinous crime on US soil. That did not stop a group of senators from calling for him to be stripped of his constitutional protections.

“The battlefield is now in the United States, so I believe he is an enemy combatant,” said Rep. Peter King, Republican of New York.

This, according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, “shows absolute ignorance of the law," something that might be a bit worrying to the nation’s lawmakers.

If he cannot be transferred to Guantanamo Bay, he should be subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques,” say some lawmakers.

Greg Ball, a representative in the New York State Senate, advocated as much.

“Scumbag # 2 in custody. Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save lives?” he tweeted last Friday, catapulting himself into instant infamy.

He stood by his stance in a combative interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Monday, in which he insisted that he was merely expressing the feeling of  “a lot of red-blooded Americans.”

“If you met this scumbag before he killed these people and turned people into amputees, what would you do, play cards?” said Ball. “Maybe I should have said it in a British accent,” he taunted. Morgan is British.

His confrontational behavior finally prompted Morgan, with a bit of heat, to ask him to “stop being such a jerk.”

The bloodlust surrounding the suspect in custody is, perhaps, understandable given the mayhem he allegedly caused — and reportedly admitted to — but it is no less unattractive for all that.

Fox News contributors have enthusiastically jumped on the torture bandwagon, with Eric Bolling telling Geraldo Rivera that “it would make me happy if they waterboarded this SOB [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev].”

This all came just a few days after a bipartisan committee released a report documenting the use of torture by the United States in the wake of 9/11.

“For shame,” wrote noted author and journalist James Traub in an op-ed on the Foreign Policy website.

The report, he says, “painfully reminds us of what America's leaders permitted themselves to do — and the American people permitted them to do — in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And there is little reason to be confident that it wouldn't happen again.”

Judging by Ball, Bolling and company, Traub could be right.

Those who pushed for death or at least torture for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were at odds with another, equally vocal group that wanted to put the blame for the bombing squarely on the Barack Obama administration.

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck was busy expounding a theory about a Saudi national briefly named as a “person of interest” and hinting at links between the man and the administration.

He gave the Obama administration until Monday to come clean, otherwise, he said, he would expose the truth.

“I don’t bluff, I make promises,” he said.

Well, Monday has come and gone, but Beck remains silent.

His arguments appear to have persuaded another state representative, New Hampshire Republican Stella Tremblay, who posted a rant on Beck’s Facebook page:

"Just as you said would happen. Top Down, Bottom UP. The Boston Marathon was a Black Ops 'terrorist' attack. One suspect killed, the other one will be too before they even have a chance to speak. Drones and now 'terrorist' attacks by our own government. Sad day, but a 'wake up' to all of us. First there was a 'suspect' then there wasnt. Infowars broke the story and they knew they had been 'found out.'"

In an interview with a local newspaper, Tremblay expanded somewhat incoherently on how she arrived at her position.

“I was with, it was one of my constituents that sent me an email, and it went to a site where a, I think it was a major retired marine was speaking, and then he said, 'Please go to Infowars,' and they had pictures of, what is it, black ops? With black backpacks. They show them at the scene, so they knew something was going on, because there wouldn't have been that many of them.”

The site she was referring to is Alex Jones’ “Infowars,” often blasted for being conspiracy theory central. It boasts stories suggesting, among other things, that bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was radicalized by the CIA, and that Michelle Obama had some nefarious purpose in visiting Saudi national Abdul Rahman Al Harbi in the hospital last Thursday, when the first lady visited dozens of other bombing victims in various hospitals in Boston.

New Hampshire Republicans have backed away from Tremblay, calling on her to apologize, but she has held firm.

“What am I going to apologize for, asking questions?” she said in an interview with reporters Tuesday in her home state.

With all the tragedy, anger, and insanity, there were some lighter moments, courtesy of Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Both skewered the media, especially CNN, for its breathless, show-and-tell approach to covering the marathon bombings — a 24/7 effort that has begun to wear thin on some viewers.

CNN reporter Susan Candiotti came in for an extra share of ridicule for stating the obvious about Boston’s empty streets.

“It’s eerie,” she said. “It’s as if a bomb had dropped somewhere,” prompting Stephen Colbert to add the dateline “Susan Candiotti, reporting from “No Sh*tsylvania.”

On "The Daily Show" Wednesday night, host Jon Stewart took on Fox and Friends, noting their giddy willingness to abandon constitutional guarantees such as  immunity from self-incrimination, protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and even freedom of religion.

They did this, he chided, while adhering fanatically to the inviolability of the Second Amendment, which grants the right to bear arms.

He showed controversial television personality Ann Coulter calling for Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife to be “jailed for wearing the hijab,” or headscarf, while Fox’s “liberal” Bob Beckel said that given the present situation, Muslim students should be barred from the United States for a while.

Meanwhile, they roundly reject any limitations on the Second Amendment.

It was just last week, in a story that barely registered amid all the furor over the Marathon bombings, that the U.S. Senate voted down a bill to expand background checks for gun purchases.

The vote earned the lawmakers an angry rebuke from the president, and a bitter op-ed in The New York Times from former congresswomen and gun violence victim Gabrielle Giffords.

“Shame on them,” she wrote.