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Tilting at Windmills

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January 22, 2009

A RIDICULOUS STANDARD.... Marc Thiessen, up until recently George W. Bush's chief speechwriter, has a twisted op-ed in the Washington Post today, arguing that if Barack Obama changes Bush's national-security apparatus in anyway, he'll invite domestic terrorism and will shoulder the blame for American deaths. Jason Zengerle described the piece as "despicable," and I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Most of the arguments are tiresome and familiar: except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush's record on counter-terrorism was top notch. As Thiessen sees it, Bush handed Obama a terrific national-security dynamic, which shouldn't be tinkered with at all.

It reads like a laundry list of discredited talking points: torture works, warrantless-wiretaps are necessary, we can't withdraw from Iraq or al Qaeda wins, etc. It's the kind of inane demagoguery that a sensible person would be embarrassed to be associated with.

But it's the shameless scare tactics that are truly offensive.

Al-Qaeda is actively working to attack our country again. And the policies and institutions that George W. Bush put in place to stop this are succeeding. During the campaign, Obama pledged to dismantle many of these policies. He follows through on those pledges at America's peril -- and his own. If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible -- and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation. [...]

President Obama has inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country for 2,688 days -- and he cannot dismantle those tools without risking catastrophic consequences. On Tuesday, George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Midland, Tex., that his administration had left office without another terrorist attack. When Barack Obama returns to Chicago at the end of his time in office, will he be able to say the same?

As Zengerle noted, "You almost get the sense guys like Thiessen are hoping for an attack so that they can blame Obama when it happens."

Update: Both the NYT and Joe Scarborough touted Thiessen's arguments, without noting why he's wrong.

Steve Benen 4:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Comments

Hey, don't blame Thiessen. It's clear from this op-ed that he had stepped out to the restroom during the "We reject as false the choice between...etc." part of the inauguration speech.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 22, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

And for a good chunk of the Bush administration, they were rooting for another attack, too.

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 22, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

George Bush also failed to capture Osama bin Laden. In fact, 6 months after 9/11 he said I just dont spend that much time on himI truly am not that concerned about him.

Because, see, George Bush let him get away and there wasn't a terrorist attack! So, OBVIOUSLY, giving up on bin Laden 6 months after 9/11 is how you keep the American people safe!

I just wonder if the American people will be safe now that Barack Obama is paying attention to al Quaeda instead of going after nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

And I'd like to point out that there hasn't been another American city destroyed by a hurricane since 1995, and we're not giving Bush nearly enough credit for that, either.

Posted by: anonymiss on January 22, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Just more proof that modern Republicanism is a mental disease, not a political philosophy. These people are seriously ill and should be getting treatment, not media time.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 22, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, librul media!!

Posted by: Bennen for Pres on January 22, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Almost get the sense..." Rush yesterday told his ditto heads that he hopes that Obama fails. It's more than a sense folks.

Posted by: DMB Esq on January 22, 2009 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Whaddaya mean almost get the sense?

Posted by: jrw on January 22, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush screwed al Qaeda half as bad as he did his own country, he'd have something to brag about.

Posted by: Jim B on January 22, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Have to agree--the GOP is hoping for another terrorist attack and other failures. Obama's line Tuesady about choosing hope over fear must be reversed if the GOP has any chance of again becoming a national party. As Dan Rather used to say: "courage".

Posted by: Terry on January 22, 2009 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

When did speech writers become experts on terrorism and domestic security? Oh yeah, I remember, but that's so pre January 20, 2009.

Posted by: AK Liberal on January 22, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why do people like Thiessen hate and hold in suspicion our democratic way of life? When Thiessen offers his drivel in the WP he betrayes his understanding of our heritage and developed way of life, and instead projects his misplaced alligience to a cult of personality as the only means of feeling safe.

Thiessen is a coward - one who chooses the easy path to political argument by appealing to our fears and limitations instead of offering anything up as a sensible alternative. He loses nothing by proffering a future attack - a safe way of preemptively tainting the future political intercourse regarding our need for safety in these challenging times. He projects his insecurities with a broad stroke hoping to pick up other irrational voices along the way.

He needs to be disregarded as any relevant source of informnation, understanding or prognosticating regarding national security - it is time to, in the words of our new president as spoken from scripture, "put chiildish things away" - like say the fantasies Thiessen holds regarding the protagonist Jack Bauer! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 22, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Do you almost get the sense that the handful of giant corporations that own and control America's mass media are continuing the vicious character assassination and vilification that they waged against Obama throughout the campaign in an effort to undermine public support for a populist Democratic president, who might very slightly raise their taxes, or roll back the Cheney-Bush policies of radical deregulation of media ownership?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 22, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

If Rush Limbaugh and the GOP right wing publicly hope for Obama's failure that means they are hoping for another al Qaeda attack that kills thousands of people.

It's hard to imagine anyone more un-American and despicable than Limbaugh. May the combined effects of Oxycontin and Viagra give him 3-day erections with no fulfillment.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 22, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that there is political risk here. Any successful attack that is perceived as large scale, will be exploited by the right. Which explanation, that it was because of the softhearted liberals, or because of the mean spirited way we treated muslims prior to 09-01-20, sticks cannot be known ahead of time. Selling the fact, that we aren't compromising security is important insurance.

Posted by: bigTom on January 22, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's great that we went 2,688 days without a terrorist attack on domestic soil (if he says so, I didn't do the math), but there were 2,920 days of the dude's presidency. These guys conveniently forget that 9/11 happened on GWB's so-called "watch."

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on January 22, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't they be pleased to see a "Pearl Harbor style event" in time for the mid-terms?

May I remind the readers: The process of ... revolutionary change is likely to be a long one" "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event" (September, 2000, PNAC)

How convenient with 9/11 - after yesterday's order concerning sealed papers we may be able to find out more.

Posted by: SteinL on January 22, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

All the same pigs at the trough again...

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on January 22, 2009 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The double-standard is sickening. Bush does nothing while he knows al Qaeda is planning to fly planes into twin towers and the Pentagon and the nation rallies around him for support, and these guys are already planning to string up Obama if something happens on his watch?

Posted by: Rian Mueller on January 22, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama has inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country for 2,688 days...

Hmm, I seem to recall that President Bush, upon being inaugurated, inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country from foreign attack for over 20,000 days.

Yet it took Bush only 234-ish days to turn that record around.

The worst part about this groundwork laying might be that under normal circumstances, if the country is attacked, they will rally behind the president. That clearly happened post-9/11. But if we should be attacked under Obama, conservatives want to make sure that it does not happen.

They want to plant the seeds early to see that the country does not come together in the event of an attack. That's grotesque.

Posted by: TG Chicago on January 22, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Thiessen: "If he does this, he will own the potentially devastating results."

Yeah - and in 2001, Bush decided to reduce the emphasis that the Clinton Administration had put on the threat of terrorism from non-state actors such as al-Qaeda. But you don't see him, or his crowd, "owning" the devastation of 9/11.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 22, 2009 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama has inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country for 2,688 days -- and he cannot dismantle those tools without risking catastrophic consequences.

That's complete and utter nonsense. Everyone knows it was my magic rock which has successfully protected the country from both terrorist and tiger attacks for 2,688 days.

Posted by: Stefan on January 22, 2009 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Most of the arguments are tiresome and familiar: except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush's record on counter-terrorism was top notch.

Similarly, except for November 22nd, 1963 the Secret Service's protection of JFK was top notch. You have to balance the one day they didn't prevent his murder against the thousand days they did.....

Posted by: Stefan on January 22, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, I seem to recall that President Bush, upon being inaugurated, inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country from foreign attack for over 20,000 days. Yet it took Bush only 234-ish days to turn that record around.

Awesome. Well done, sir.

Posted by: Stefan on January 22, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

On Tuesday, George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Midland, Tex., that his administration had left office without another terrorist attack.

Shorter Bush: I only fell down on the job and allowed the single largest terrorist mass murder in American history to happen ONCE and not twice. Yeah me!

Posted by: Stefan on January 22, 2009 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

On Tuesday, George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Midland

OK, they didn't throw shoes, but cheering? More like polite.

Posted by: Danp on January 22, 2009 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, the more effective the new policies are in making life difficult(militarily,socially, culturally) for terrorists abroad, the more likely they are to try something here, even when the new policies at home, in fact, make the country more secure.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on January 22, 2009 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

I've noticed something new today. Tuesday and Wednesday, the hackles would go up watching and hearing the GOP drivel. This and other stuff today just made me laugh. I don't plan on being complacent about the intent and capacity of the GOPers to do harm to the country and political system. I learned all about it 21 years ago and have been watching with increasing anxiety since.

Meanwhile, I just have the feeling that although we do need to have Obama's back, the likelihood of them getting around him is very low.

Oh happy day :)

Posted by: Ginny in CO on January 22, 2009 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Thiessen is half right.
Obama needs to follow up on Bush's policies.

The following would increase our country's security and make it much tougher for al queda to hurt anyone.

-- Curfews.
-- Security zones (It works wonders for the Israelis, why not here?)
-- Security checks before a weapon can be purchased/carried.
-- Mandatory tape recording of meetings of civic groups.
-- For better communication, federalize all these disjointed local police forces.
-- Produce a national ID that all Americans must carry at all times.
-- Military bases in every city for rapid deployment.
-- Produce effective inspection systems of cargo at our nation's ports.

Well, maybe not that last one.

If our nation's HIGHEST goal is safety and security, all of my suggestions make sense and should be implemented. If any of these ideas should be rejected, perhaps we have a higher priority than personal safety?

Dare we risk death for the reward of mere liberty?
Maybe some wacky reckless kids think so, but surely our founding fathers had our safety and security in mind when building this nation of ours, didn't they?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 22, 2009 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Went to college with Thiessen - he's still a mental midget.

Posted by: Salt Water Sound on January 22, 2009 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

I read a lot of criticism, name calling, and insults spewed at George Bush here but not one recommendation, not one idea of what you think we should be doing to actively protect the United States, her interests, and her citizens from terrorism.

It's easy to throw insults; it's a whole different matter to come up with substantive alternative ideas.

Posted by: Kim Priestap on January 22, 2009 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

I see someone left several ideas a few minutes before I posted my comment. They appear to be nothing but an exercise in hyperbole.

Posted by: Kim Priestap on January 22, 2009 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

What propaganda nonsense. Ignoring the fact that terrorists attacked when Bush was president...and then later we had another attack with anthrax (which was domestic terrorism) what is it exzactly that Bush has done to make us safer...what. These idiots make an unsupported claim without a reference to anything Bush has done.

Are the docks more secure or nuclear plants. Is their entire claim based on the threat that we will torture you if you try to attack us or what?

Scarborough is just sickening...what an ego. He just doesn't see how ignorant and stupid he really is. He must surround himself with people too stupid to know or too intimidated to tell him how ridiculous he has become.

These are true antidemocratic reps as they cheer more for failure than success, for fear rather than hope. They are the keepers of despair ever ready to provide us a meal of it.

In the land of freedom a majority of Americans decided that Fox news channel was the Mordrid of Democracy and banned them from the airwaves for being seditious and dangerously antidemocratic....and peace returned to the land.

Thiessen also believes Hitler had his admirers too. Seriously, It fits because that is how Bush thrived...FEAR. Do what we say or terrorist will kill your children....still....and look who continues to follow suit.

Posted by: joey on January 22, 2009 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

You quote: "And the policies and institutions that George W. Bush put in place to stop this are succeeding."

Actually, the policies of Bill Clinton were succeeding -- until George W. Bush took office and blew off CIA warnings that "Bin Laden determined to strike in US."

You continue to quote: "If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible -- and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation."

Uh, no. Bush vowed to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." He failed. If there is another attack, it will be because the damn Repubs invaded the wrong country and let bin Laden get away. They wasted the last 7 years. Instead of a "War on Al Qaeda," we got a "War on Terror" and an invasion and occupation of Iraq. WTF?

The Repubs are stuck on stupid.

Posted by: CMcC on January 22, 2009 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

I read a lot of criticism, name calling, and insults spewed at George Bush here but not one recommendation, not one idea of what you think we should be doing to actively protect the United States, her interests, and her citizens from terrorism.

You start by reversing the terrifically terrible job Bush did from before 9/11 all the way through killing 4,000 Americans and countless Iraqis. The illegal imprisonments, torture, illegal spying, "Shock and Awe", neocon foreign policy, rendition, kidnapping, occupation -- do the opposite. Work within the parameters that Americans employed to defeat Nazi Germany AND Imperial Japan at the same time.

Despite what you might have read, FISA allows the US to intercept any communication that takes place outside the US. For cases where suspect communication routes through or connects with an American port, the NSA has something like 3 days to get a retroactive warrant. Seems sufficient.

Then you'll want to train Arab-speaking intelligence agents, right? Well, we didn't. And in fact, let some go because they were gay.

You'd also want to pursue Osama. That would help.

You might also want to reduce people's irrational fears. Presidents used to do this. JFK, FDR, those kinds of folks thought it would be better to lessen panic, instead of heighten it. Bush, on the other hand, gave us color warnings that started with "Dangerous". The odds are overwhelming you won't die in a terrorist attack. Really.

Another thing? Secure aging nuclear arsenals. Bush stopped pursuing this strategy, which is stupid.

Terrorism requires multinational cooperation, therefore it would also be better NOT to antagonize allies by calling them "Old Europe" and renaming their fries because they choose not to go with you into a ruinous war.

There are millions of things that could be done, but GW didn't do. And what he did do was so damaging in the short and long term, it will take Democrats decades to restore worldwide confidence and admiration in our government.

Posted by: Jay B. on January 22, 2009 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's torture and eavesdropping policies had an added benefit built in by Cheney and Rove: if a Democrat reverses them and there is another terrorist attack with great loss of life, the Republicans come roaring back with "We told you so!" Don't ever believe those policies weren't calculated with precisely that in mind.

Posted by: dalloway on January 22, 2009 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

"...It's easy to throw insults; it's a whole different matter to come up with substantive alternative ideas.
Posted by: Kim Priestap on January 22, 2009 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Nor is this the place to do it. Rather than "throwing insults" this is mostly just "responding" to the insults and fear mongering Thiessen and Joe's Scar mindlessly spout. While improvements can always be made we are already quite secure from major attack and had Cheney and Bush not gotten in the way and had our defenses "stand down" for "training maneuvers"...9/11 WTC's would still be standing. You just cannot see the depth of these evil power hungry entities no matter how much their hypocrisy shows. The thugs are gone for now...more than any terrorist I fear the return of their supporters.

Posted by: joey on January 22, 2009 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

It makes no difference what the outgoing President, or his staff do or say. Pr. Obama and his staff now hold the reins of power.

Radical Islam intends the destruction of the United States, and the death or forced conversion of every man, woman, and child. It is one of the Constitutionally mandated roles of the President to serve as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. This makes Pr. Obama responsible for keeping the country protected from attack. He is not responsible to act fairly or honorably toward our enemies, or to treat those who have shown that they desire to kill Americans with kindness.

I think that political correctness led directly to 9/11 and I hold the Executive Branch responsible for their failure to prevent it. To the extent that no further major attacks occurred, they did their job.

It remains to be seen how the new Administration performs in this role.

Posted by: ASM826 on January 22, 2009 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

To Thiesen, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, and any other moronic rightwing bobblehead:
criticism of the President in wartime is unpatriotic.

That's what they have ALL been saying ever since 9-11. Was there a meeting where they all decided that they were wrong about that? Or was it something else?

Hmmm Can't be because 'the One', someone from the 'democrat' party, the 'house negro' is in charge, can it be?
/snark

Posted by: bruno on January 22, 2009 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bruno,

Don't forget that Limbaugh, who apparently speaks for many on the right, is on record saying Donovan McNabb got to where he is on account of his skin color, not because he's talented or deserving. Limbaugh probably wants Obama to fail to confirm his racial bigotry.

Among his many other shortcomings Limbaugh is obviously a poor judge of talent and character. Mark my words -- watch for racial comments when Obama hits a rough patch.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 22, 2009 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, in the State Department's 2008 Annual Country Reports On Terrorism they report 14,499 terror attacks worldwide in 2007, a decline of less than 1% from 2006. In Iraq the number of people killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terror attacks grew from 38,863 in 2006 to 44,008 in 2007. How many of these attacks were on US troops or forces loyal to the US?

If George Bush wants to take credit for no terrorist attacks in the US then shouldn't he own up to the deaths of American and allied forces in Iraq, or don't they count?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 22, 2009 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I read a lot of criticism, name calling, and insults spewed at George Bush here"

He's earned them, many times over.

"but not one recommendation, not one idea of what you think we should be doing to actively protect the United States, her interests, and her citizens from terrorism."

We're responding to mindless partisan drivel with snark and derision, the only suitable response, in my opinion.

"It's easy to throw insults; it's a whole different matter to come up with substantive alternative ideas."

You should have told that to the Bush administration eight years ago.

Posted by: PaulB on January 22, 2009 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

"It makes no difference what the outgoing President, or his staff do or say."

It does make a difference when they basically make shit up. It also makes a difference when we're trying to figure out which policies to abandon because they a) don't work and b) unnecessarily infringe on Constitutional rights.

"Radical Islam intends the destruction of the United States, and the death or forced conversion of every man, woman, and child."

Oh, garbage. What mindless fearmongering.

"It is one of the Constitutionally mandated roles of the President to serve as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces."

Yes, it is, which has jack shit to do with "Radical Islam."

"This makes Pr. Obama responsible for keeping the country protected from attack."

Not really. Security is a shared responsibility, from the various intelligence agencies to the FBI to the local cop on the beat.

"He is not responsible to act fairly or honorably toward our enemies"

The overwhelming majority of the people we locked up and tortured were completely innocent. Personally, I think we do have a responsibility to act fairly and honorably to innocent people, to live up to our international treaties, and to live up to our Constitution.

"I think that political correctness led directly to 9/11"

I think you're full of shit. "Political correctness" had not one damn thing to do with 9/11.

"To the extent that no further major attacks occurred, they did their job."

Actually, it was my magic terror-protection amulet that prevented further attacks. I guess I'd better keep it charged up.

"It remains to be seen how the new Administration performs in this role."

There is absolutely no chance that they will do as poorly as the previous administration.

Posted by: PaulB on January 22, 2009 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

The argument advanced by Thiessen and other neo-cons annoys me to no end - unless they present evidence to support their claims, correlation does not imply causation! There was 8 years between the first WTC attack and the attack on 9/11 - historically, AQ isn't Hamas - they are very deliberate in their planning. And, BTW, if bin Laden is responsible for the next attack, Bush will bear responsibility - after all, GWB had 8 years to capture him.

Posted by: Andy on January 23, 2009 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

9/11 happened on Bush's watch because he did not want to pay attention to the intelligence that was presented to him right after he got into office. Or, he knew about it and let it occur a, thinking that he would come out a hero.

Posted by: gerry o on January 23, 2009 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

I read a lot of criticism, name calling, and insults spewed at George Bush here

As others poitned out, deservedly so.

but not one recommendation, not one idea of what you think we should be doing to actively protect the United States, her interests, and her citizens from terrorism.

The US enjoys the services of a host of professionals whose job it is to actively protect the United States, her interests, and her citizens from threats including terrorism. My idea would be not to blow off these professionals. Unfortunately, by ignorning their warnings -- including the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief -- Bush's incomeptence led to the single greatest mass-casualty attack in history. And then he ignored the advice of professionals -- including his own father and Colin Powell -- who warned the occupation of Iraq would be risky, that torture is ineffective and detrimental to US security, and that the President can't break the law in the name of national defense.

We managed to win WWII and the Cold War withour resorting to a national policy of torture and other illegal acts. Your error is in presuming that Bush's acts are necessary as opposed to incompetent, not to mention criminal, even when there's a big gap in the skyline of New York City and thousands of graves to attest to his incompetence. It would seem you're the one being blindly partisan, and embracing an illegal and reprehensible policy of torture into the bargain. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on January 23, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Radical Islam intends the destruction of the United States, and the death or forced conversion of every man, woman, and child.

And I intend to have sex with Natalie Portman. I think our odds of success are about even.

Posted by: Stefan on January 23, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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