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February 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE POLITICS OF TERROR....Yglesias on the politics of terror:

Democracy is a highly imperfect method of getting good government. One thing that makes it work better is the general sense that if good things happen to a country, incumbent politicians will benefit from that whereas if bad things happen, incumbents will suffer. That often leads to election results that aren't really "deserved" since Jimmy Carter didn't cause the 70s oil crisis and Bill Clinton didn't cause the 90s tech boom. But it does keep the incentives where they belong — insofar as things are under the control of politicians, the politicians try to make good things happen.

But not the post-9/11 GOP. Their political meal ticket is a population terrified of terrorism, and nothing whips that terror up quite like actual terrorism in London, Madrid, wherever. The result is a political party that simply can't adopt policies designed to ratchet-down the level of danger and anxiety.

One of the ironies of this is that conservatives have spent years accusing Democrats of, for example, not really wanting to do anything about racism because they get too much mileage out of making fiery speeches about it to the Urban League every four years. Whether there was ever anything to that or not, there's not much question that this is exactly the GOP's attitude toward terror. Their eagerness for another attack as a way of proving Democratic fecklessness is so palpable you can almost taste it.

Kevin Drum 12:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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As an aside to the point being presented, I would like to hear if other posters believe that Gore's push toward a more usable interface with the internet did, in fact, at least contribute somewhat to the 90's tech boom.

Posted by: juan arturo on February 22, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

That often leads to election results that aren't really "deserved" since Jimmy Carter didn't cause the 70s oil crisis and Bill Clinton didn't cause the 90s tech boom.

The 70s oil crisis wasn't Carter's fault, but he also couldn't convince the country he was up to the challenge.

Clinton doesn't need to take credit for the tech boom, because his Vice President can: Al Gore realized early what an open and widely available internet would mean for America and worked constantly for it, and it's his internet that fueled the tech boom.

Posted by: Boronx on February 22, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "Their eagerness for another attack as a way of proving Democratic fecklessness is so palpable you can almost taste it."

How exactly would another terrorist attack "prove Democratic fecklessness"?

What it would actually prove is the continuing failure of the Republicans who have been completely in charge of national security and anti-terrorism for the last seven years.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 22, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Dear GOP fearmongers:

Got Osama bin Laden?

Then STFU.

Posted by: David W. on February 22, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist:

good question - I have been wondering about this all these last 7 years - with no obvious answer. Every attack seems to increase poll numbers of the supposed tough on terrorism crowd. The only thing I can attribute this to is the tacit belief that the actual attacks (on US soil anyway) are a direct result of the Republican control of the guvmint.

Just the facts - no contra-opinions tolerated.

-- r

Posted by: DesiPanchi on February 22, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

The result is a political party that simply can't adopt policies designed to ratchet-down the level of danger and anxiety.

Why stop short of the truth, that they adopt policies designed to ratchet-up the level of danger and anxiety? The Iraq war being the biggest example, but see color coded alerts, "spy on your neighbor" requests at airports and other stupid fascist rules, attacking Democrats for opposing one reckless offense to our liberties after another, throwing the terrorist label at any foreign adversary or drug delaer etc...

Reluctance to speak the truth enables these monsters.

Posted by: Boronx on February 22, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

It would prove Democratic fecklessness in the same way that when the Repubs held the White House and both houses of congress, anything bad was always "Clinton's fault."

Posted by: tomeck on February 22, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The current administration, with a bipartisan Congress, uses terror in two ways. The most obvious is scaring citizens with mushroom cloud rhetoric to raise fear of foreigners. The less obvious is the use of torture on Americans and other noncombatant civilians, the abolishment of habeas corpus, warrantless spying on citizens, and the questioning of citizens legal status. These less obvious uses of terror make potential dissidents fearful of making their complaints public.

Posted by: Brojo on February 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

david w.: Got Osama bin Laden?

a quick review

2-invasions...600-billion spent..and 30000-killed and wounded usa troops..

number of days since bush said he would get bin laden "dead or alive.":

2348-days

and still counting..

heckofajob

Posted by: mr. irony on February 22, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

It was the Republican agenda with Law 'N Order as well, as Clinton proved with his COPS program.

Now Republicans are stealing from24 for their fearmongering with a new ad:

The House Republicans have produced a new dramatic ad (below) complaining about expiration of The Protect America Act and demanding immediate passage of the Cheney/Rockefeller Senate bill -- thus vesting in the government the power to spy on us with no warrants and vesting in the telecom industry license to break the law with no consequences -- as the only way for us to avoid imminent, violent death…

For seven years Reagan blamed everything bad on Carter, but there are few failures as egregious as Bush's failure to take terrorism warnings seriously.

Posted by: Mike on February 22, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Solution: Democrats make fiery talks about terror to the Urban League!

See, Kevin, that wasn't so hard.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK


If we suffer "another 9/11" before the November election, will we infer that:

1) Invading an irrelevant country did not actually make us safer; or

2) Invading ONE irrelevant country was not ENOUGH to make us safer?

The conventional wisdom is that "another 9/11" would rally the country around "the President", but if "the President" is still George W. Bush, will the nation actually be dumb enough to conclude that we need to invade more countries, torture more prisoners, tap more phones, and hassle more air travellers? Given that the nation includes both halves of the bell curve, the answer may well be yes.

What I want to know is why the Democrats (especially Obama and Clinton) are not explicitly asking my original question NOW. It will be too late to ask it AFTER "the next 9/11".

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on February 22, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I’m not crazy about this argument. Isn't this the same as the Republicans' specious argument that Democrats want the war in Iraq to go badly? Just because you think the other party’s policy will lead to a bad policy result does not mean you want that bad policy result. Democrats think Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy hurt the economy, that doesn’t mean we want the economy to go into a recession.

Posted by: Merle on February 22, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's attempt to establish one notwithstanding, there is absolutely no equivalence between Democrats' attitude towards racism and Republicans' stance on Terror.

Ask Obama. Perhaps Osama will also have an opinion on this.

Posted by: gregor on February 22, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmmm Kevin,

Keep calling me names and I just might vote for John McCain (by the way just noticed his last name McCain
is that scotch for CAIN? Could a good Christian vote
for Cain? Oh well I'm not one so maybe I could)
But anyway none of my Republican friends are terrified. They do however recognize the threat that
exists.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 22, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Where some see a dangerous threat or calamity, the followers of the teachings of the great prophet Friedman see the opportunity to quickly bamboozle(or force) a frightened, disoriented country into privatisation, deregulation, and the elimination, or at least extreme reduction, of all nonsecurity related government activity. The result is inevitably bad for the lower classes and almost inconceivably good for corporations and the wealthy.

This scenario has been played out so many times, with little variation, since the 70s as to almost rise to the level of certainty usually reserved for mathematical theorems.

When American consumerism no longer is the essential driving force of the world economy, our debt will leave us vulnerable implementation of the Shock Doctrine on a scale never seen in the first world. Read Naomi Klein's book if you want to know terror.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on February 22, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

some wacko right wingers may be hoping for another attack etc, that's obvious - but do not confuse those wackos with the 'moderate' right of center types who accept, from a realist reading of history both near and far, the certainty of something bad happening during next president's term. If democrats don't like GOP tactics then stop nominating candidates that serve those tactics well - like Obama, who any reasonable person can see is a light weight - stop filling the stereotype republicans want to exploit for christ sake! If McCain was five years younger [and not banging lobbyists in his spare time] he'd destroy Obama in election [and may still do so despite flaws] because the democratic primary process favors candidates that flatter the left wing elements of the party and the affections and concerns of those elements are and always will be at odds with the bulk of Americans when it comes to foreign policy. What do you think most Americans are going to think when they find out that Obama had/has a relationship with former member of weathermen, a guy who probably conspired to kill American soldiers through terrorist bombings? Gonna take an awfully sweet smelling speech to make that stench go away.

Posted by: ittle on February 22, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know, I think Yglesias needs to tuck his shirt in a little bit. The Republicans benefit from actually stopping terror, they just don't benefit from letting us get to feel very safe. If we had a lot of successful attacks here post 9/11, people would really start to wonder whether the Republicans were incompetent at fighting terror. But even then, the Republicans would try to spin it and say that the Democrats would do even worse.

Posted by: Swan on February 22, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't that a bit, I don't know, ad ? Unless you are talking about the fringe, I have a hard time to believe the Republicans are eager for another attack. Of course they benefit from the politics of it, and I do believe they might be, when in a position to act, incompetent to prevent it. But to root for it? That's quite a cynical argument to me. Also, is the federal US government responsible for ALL counterterrorism in the US, or do state governments take part on the effort as well? (I am really asking, this is not a rethorical question). If States do take part on it, then you would have to evaluate what the Democrat governors do before making such a claim.

Posted by: Tricolaco on February 22, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we can ask some Repub troll to explain why they plan to vote Republican this fall. I mean why they WOULD vote Republican- not why they WOULDN'T vote Democratic. I'm really curious to learn what they are so proud of.

Posted by: fillphil on February 22, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody else has made the obvious quibble yet, so let me ask this:

When you say, "Their eagerness for another attack as a way of proving Democratic fecklessness is so palpable you can almost taste it," what on earth do you mean by "almost"?

Posted by: Colin McFaul on February 22, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't that a bit, I don't know, ad ? Unless you are talking about the fringe, I have a hard time to believe the Republicans are eager for another attack.

On the contrary:

Right-Wing Media Give Favorable Platform To ‘Another 9/11 Columnist

In his Thursday column, Philadelphia Daily News scribe Stu Bykofsky seemingly wished for the tragic death of 3000+ Americans when he wrote that “another 9/11 would help America.”

A host of right-wing media outlets provided Bykofsky a national platform yesterday that largely served to give credence to the columnist’s ghoulish suggestion.

Drudge gave the article a top row, center column link. Radio host Mike Gallagher, who claims to have “over 3.75 million weekly listeners” across the country, hosted Bykofsky (on the very same day that he scored an interview with Rudy Giuliani). Bykofsky’s biggest booster, however, was Fox News. Yesterday morning’s Fox and Friends did a segment on his column. Later in the afternoon, Bykofsky appeared on The Big Story, where host John Gibson agreed with and validated Bykofsky’s thesis. “I think it’s going to take a lot of dead people to wake America up,” said Gibson....

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/08/11/bykofsky-right-wing/

Posted by: Stefan on February 22, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

If I were a Dem running for president, I'm make Matt / Kevin's point front and center: The first step in fighting terrorism is to not be terrified.

Furthermore, the Republicans don't just benefit from fear, they are actually afraid. It's not "being strong" that motivates Republican. It's fear. That's the common thread in invading Iraq, spying on Americans, banning liquid from airplanes, etc.

Posted by: Oberon on February 22, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

TruthPolitik: But anyway none of my Republican friends are terrified. They do however recognize the threat that exists.

oh they recognize it...all right

House Republicans approach record departures

- McClatchy Newspapers 2/10/08

Reps. Tom Davis of Virginia, Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, Ron Lewis of Kentucky, Dave Weldon of Florida and James Walsh of New York are among 25 Republican members of the House of Representatives who've announced their resignations or retirements.

The party is closing in quickly on its record of 27 House retirements, set in 1952.

and don't forget...

6-gop senators have either quit like lott (who had 5-years left in office)....or announced they won't run for re-election..

they know what's coming...

Posted by: mr. irony on February 22, 2008 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans assert that there hasn't been a terrorist attack since 9/11 due to their policies. (They like to forget who was in power on 9/11/01). So, if there is another attack will it be because the war against terror was ineffective? I am sure they would try to blame it on the Democrats distain for torture and downplay the part about there has not been a terrorist attack since 9/11. Will the general public suddenly have another amnesia attack about this?

Posted by: fedup on February 22, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

"some wacko right wingers may be hoping for another attack etc, that's obvious"

Since those "wacko right wingers" control the White House, dominate Congress, dominate our air waves, and dominate our political discourse, I'm not sure what point you think you're making.

"but do not confuse those wackos with the 'moderate' right of center types who accept, from a realist reading of history both near and far, the certainty of something bad happening during next president's term."

Not only is there no such "certainty", it's not even remotely clear than such an eventuality would do any significant harm if it were to occur, nor that any policies espoused by the Republican Party would do a damned thing to prevent such an occurrence or that policies espoused by the Democratic Party would do a damned thing to facilitate such an occurrence.

"If democrats don't like GOP tactics then stop nominating candidates that serve those tactics well"

Give me a flipping break. It matters not one whit which candidate takes the Democratic Party nomination -- the attacks will be precisely the same.

"like Obama, who any reasonable person can see is a light weight"

LOL.... I do so love it when a partisan moron uses "any reasonable person" when they mean "any person who agrees with me."

"If McCain was five years younger [and not banging lobbyists in his spare time] he'd destroy Obama in election"

Oh, garbage. Your other candidates did even worse against all of the Democratic candidates for the nomination in all of the polls. McCain is the best chance you've got, but McCain is also Bush III and that's going to hurt him badly in the election because the voters really don't want Bush III.

"[and may still do so despite flaws] because the democratic primary process favors candidates that flatter the left wing elements of the party and the affections and concerns of those elements are and always will be at odds with the bulk of Americans when it comes to foreign policy."

And, again, this is utter bullshit, contradicted by all of the recent polls.

"What do you think most Americans are going to think when they find out that Obama had/has a relationship with former member of weathermen, a guy who probably conspired to kill American soldiers through terrorist bombings? Gonna take an awfully sweet smelling speech to make that stench go away."

ROFL.... Let me put it this way: Bring it on.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Furthermore, the Republicans don't just benefit from fear, they are actually afraid."

Bloggers and commenters, I think, more so than the politicians. That's certainly true of the majority of conservatives and trolls who have commented here and whose sites I've visited. The fear is palpable.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

If McCain was five years younger [and not banging lobbyists in his spare time]

If I was five years younger I'd, well, I'd still be pretty old but you see my point, don't you?

Posted by: thersites on February 22, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

"How exactly would another terrorist attack 'prove Democratic fecklessness'?"

The argument has been made over and over again with respect to the war in Iraq, and in a stunning display of historical revisionism, with respect to Vietnam.

Basically, the argument is that the Democrats didn't clap loud enough, which emboldened our enemies. It's silly and unsupportable, but they'll make that argument, over and over again, ad nauseam, just as they've done in the past and just as they've done repeatedly over the past few years. And this despite the fact that the Democratic members of Congress have given Bush quite literally everything he has asked for.

Were an attack to occur, they would do their damnedest to convince the voters and the media that it was the Democratic Party's fault.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Why stop short of the truth, that they adopt policies designed to ratchet-up the level of danger and anxiety?"

Not quite. I would argue that the policies are deliberately designed to ratchet up the level of anxiety and fear (the silliness over FISA being the most recent example), but that any rising danger level, assuming that such exists, mostly isn't by choice but by lack of competence.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, our lovely ittle troll friend spoke of Obama's Weatherman "relationship". Wanna know what that actually consists of?

- Professor William Ayers, of the University of Illinois-Chicago is a former member of the Weather Underground Organization.

- Professor Ayers and Barack Obama were both members of the board of an anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 1999 and 2002 (Ayers is still a member of the board).

- Professor Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate in April, 2001.

That's it. That's the entire "relationship" that our dear chum thinks is going to take Obama down. Could this possibly get any sillier?

For the record, that bit of information came from a genuinely slimy piece in London's Daily Mail, written by Peter Hitchens, the lesser known of the Hitchens brothers.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by: Quotation Man on February 22, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

""Perhaps we can ask some Repub troll to explain why they plan to vote Republican this fall. I mean why they WOULD vote Republican- not why they WOULDN'T vote Democratic. I'm really curious to learn what they are so proud of.""

FilPhil

I probably will not vote republican in the Presidential Race.
Probably will for the house and senate though.
McCain has to convince me he deserves it and that's going to be difficult.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 22, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

TruthPolitik: Probably will for the house and senate though.


Voting DEM for Congress: 55%

Voting GOP for Congress: 41%

- USA Today/Gallup 2/10/08

Posted by: mr. irony on February 22, 2008 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 22, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Clinton signed an order allowing internet domain name registration without DARPA approval -- 1994, I believe. I recall because I was well down the path of getting DARPA sponsorship for a domain name when it was suddenly no longer required.

It can be argued that this was "The" moment that gave us the possibility of the Internet as we've seen it created.

Credit where due. Bill opened it up to all.

Posted by: Randy Kirchhof on February 22, 2008 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Their eagerness for another attack as a way of proving Democratic fecklessness is so palpable you can almost taste it."

Are they only Republicans?

HRC is one of them. Did you catch Wolfson's latest?

In Case You Missed It: “Obama once visited '60s ‘terrorists’.”

http://blog.hillaryclinton.com/blog/main/2008/02/22/143137

And they call themselves Democrats. Disgusting.

Posted by: Chino Blanco on February 23, 2008 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

The myth that Bill Clinton didn't cause the 90s tech boom.

Clinton have everything to do with it, because he entered his presidency a good guy wanting to help the US but than he help himself and left as in the footstep of George W. Bush.

If energy cost are low and the available jobs are good paying and happen to be plentifully, people invest in electronics, the very thing they don't invest in during a poor economy.

In the 70's oil was king and the economy suffered, in the 90's oil fell to $ 16.00 - $ 17.00 a barrel and OPEC was happy enough to provide oil for very low amounts that made domestic drilling unnecessary and far too costly to produce. Cheap energy = incentives for strong domestic production, and spured a strong economy.

Oil is king again, AND for this reason I'm just not a Hillary fan because Big Oil will be king under Hillary or any Republican, because those Marc Rich, WMD, pre-emptive war groupies allow oil to do any price gouging they wanted, and call all the shots - so if Obama can distance himself from this very powerful special interest, the world will be a much, much better place.

Incidently, this is the reason why so many, top Dems like Sen. Carl Levin will support Obama rather than Hillary. And its why there are a lot of Senators like Feingold, Levin, and Leahy that don't want Hillary for president, she can't and won't say no to big oil. AND because we were not lied to merely by one President about WMD in Iraq, it was both Bush and Clinton that did the lying to us about all the reasons for the Iraq war.

Posted by: me-again on February 23, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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