WASHINGTON - Egad! Could we actually owe Matthew Hale, the white supremacist windbag, an apology? No way.
The thought did cross my mind upon hearing that a disgruntled and deranged Chicago man with no apparent ties to Mr. Hale was the likely killer of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother.
Until convincing evidence linked Bart Ross to the killings, my suspicions locked onto Mr. Hale and the other haters in his carnival of bigotry formerly named the World Church of the Creator, based in East Peoria, Ill.
Mr. Hale is cooling his heels in jail, awaiting sentencing after his conviction last year for plotting to have Judge Lefkow murdered. Ms. Lefkow's husband, Michael, and mother, Donna Humphrey, were found murdered in the judge's home Feb. 28.
Mr. Hale had said earlier that "only an idiot" would think he had anything to do with the killings.
Even locked away in his dungeon with limited outside contacts, Mr. Hale should have been a "person of interest," as federal investigators put it so delicately, because of his history. Only an idiot would have ruled him out.
No, instead of receiving apologies from the civilized world, Mr. Hale should be apologizing to us.
He should apologize to all Americans for adding fuel to the fires of domestic terrorism.
He should apologize to white people for being a discredit to his race.
He should apologize to the racial and religious minorities he has exploited in building an organization of people who have so little to live up to that they feel they must put others down.
He should apologize to organized religion for desecrating the word "church."
At best, we owe Mr. Hale a particle of gratitude for reminding us of how easy it is to presume the guilt of some people even when there's no hard evidence. That's something to which a lot of nonwhite men could respond, "Welcome to my world!"
As much as such racial extremists say they are organizing around love for their group, it is hatred for other groups that really puts the spice into their stew. When Malcolm X realized that trap, he turned away from Black Nationalism to Orthodox Islam. Matt Hale shows no similar signs of growth. He'd rather swim in the sewage of a movement that wallows in its own perceived racial victimization.
Unfortunately, such movements have a history of violence about which the rest of us are quite justified in remembering. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks swept aside our national concerns about the neo-Nazis, militant militias and new wave Ku Klux Klan.
Still, we don't know where the next Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph will come from. We need to pay attention to people like William Krar, a reputed Texas militia member who was arrested in 2003 with 25 machine guns, a quarter-million rounds of ammunition, 60 pipe bombs and enough sodium cyanide to kill thousands, authorities said.
It is still unclear as to what he planned to do with his weapons of mass destruction. But it should not take a horror like the Lefkow murders to remind us that most of our nation's terrorist threats have not come from overseas.
Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays in The Sun.