You didn't even have to read the story to know the suspected Urbandale shooter wasn't brown. The tweets from the likes of Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King made clear the man wanted by police was a white guy.

And Republicans say race isn't at issue among its base. 

Within hours of the double murder early Wednesday, law enforcement throughout central Iowa were hunting for suspected shooter Scott Michael Greene. Days before the shooting, Urbandale police escorted Greene out of a high school football game after he apparently taunted black fans with a Confederate flag.

That interaction, law enforcement surmised, might have sent Greene into a murderous fit of rage. It might have driven him to not only kill two men in cold blood, but attack the entire institution of law enforcement. It might have driven him to, what many would call these days, an act of terror.

The sheer volume of carnage is less important when defining an act of terror. It's really about a politically motivated assault on a civic pillar. The death toll was low when the leftist Weather Underground bombed government buildings in the 1970s. The bombings still were acts of terrorism. 

Shooting random cops is very much such an assault. 

But those most prone to tossing that phrase around were unusually cautious with their language as the news broke and Urbandale and Des Moines mourned the loss of two cops.

"Praying for the families of the two Iowa police ambushed this morning," Trump tweeted. "An attack on those who keep us safe is an attack on us all."

I share Trump's sentiment. But what's unsaid is the key here.

Take this gem from June, following the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando by a Muslim man.

"Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism," Trump gloated. "I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

Nowhere in Wednesday's conservative Twitterverse was the word "terrorism" flung about. It's thrown with reckless abandon if the shooter's name sounds Middle Eastern, though. 

"Our hearts & prayers are for 2 Des Moines police officers murdered this morning, for families & all officers" tweeted Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Fair enough. Greene was charged Thursday with two counts of first-degree murder. 

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But contrast his measured approach with this following the Paris attacks:

"Our hearts and prayers go out for the French victims of yet another terrorist attack," King tweeted. "We must defeat the ideology of Islamic Jihad."

So similar, yet so different.

The level of hypocrisy is unavoidable. Certain damning terms -- with real legal and political implications -- are wholly reserved for minority races and religions. It was true when Ammon Bundy and his merry band of right wing zealots took up arms last winter and seized a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon. And it was true Wednesday in Urbandale. For years, the FBI has said radicalization among right wing domestic groups far outstrips any threat from radical Islamic factions abroad. 

The likes of Trump and King don't wait for investigations if the suspect is of a certain background. They display no caution. They see an opportunity to further a narrative of fear and jump on it when it works for them. Both men know their base. Both men gladly pander to its most threatening sects. 

It's why Donald Trump hesitated before rebuking the Klu Klux Klan's support during the GOP primary. Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan is slathered in racial underpinnings. King has increasingly adopted language akin to that employed by white supremacists. King's on-air questioning of contributions made by non-whites during June's Republican National Convention is symptomatic of a growing pattern. His September tweet about "cultural suicide" could have been plucked directly from a white nationalist website. 

Both men are noticeably reserved when police say a white guy, such as Greene, is wanted in connection with an assault on a basic American institution. It's a level of caution unreserved for brown people. It's a striking double-standard that exposes undeniable prejudice. 

For the likes of Trump and King, "terrorism" isn't an act. It's a racial and ethnic brand reserved for those who aren't "real Americans." 

Jon Alexander is editorial page editor at the Quad-City Times. He can be reached at jalexander@qctimes.com

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