When it comes to fighting terrorists, there are few questions that divide Democrats and Republicans more than what to call them.

To GOP presidential contenders, they are Islamic extremists, jihadist Islamists or Islamofascists.

The Democrats in the race prefer terms that are simpler, vaguer and less provocative. They rarely attach an Islamic label when characterizing America’s enemies, calling them simply extremists or terrorists.

“They never use the word Islamic terrorism – ever,” Republican Rudy Giuliani said recently of the other party. “They think it’s politically incorrect to say the words. I don’t know exactly who they think they’re offending. . . . When I say the words Islamic terrorist, I’m offending exactly who I want to offend.”

What’s behind this language gap in the “war on terror”?

Is it merely a case of different political sensibilities?

Or does it reflect competing notions about the nature of the conflict that America is engaged in?

“I think the heart of this issue really boils down to what the 9-11 commission said and what the Democrats have internalized about that and what Republicans haven’t,” said Rand Beers, who served on the National Security Council under four presidents and advised Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 campaign.

Beers said Democrats tend to believe the war on terror is about “hearts and minds” as well as force, and because of that, “you have to find ways to talk about this that doesn’t sound like you’re condemning the entire Islamic world.”

Beers added: “Republicans have continued by and large to see it as much more of a military conflict. . . . (They) have sort of had to display their testosterone on this issue.” (MORE)


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