(Temporary blogging hiatus interrupted, again. Because I am apparently a junkie, and this story made steam come out of my ears. Which hurts.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't have a dog in this Democratic primary fight yet. I'm liking both Obama and Edwards, though not swooning for either. Gore would be excellent, but it's looking unlikely that he'll throw his fedora into the ring. I wish Wes Clark had jumped in, but...eh, bygones. And yes, I'll support whoever is nominated in 2008.
But Lordy, does our ostensible frontrunner -- one Senator Hillary Clinton -- make it hard to rally to her side. Today she handed the Republican party a nice little gift, and ceded the "terror" issue to them.
Way-smart whippersnapper Matt Yglesias of The Atlantic has the exact right take on it, below:
This is, I think, a disaster:
"It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, 'What if? What if?' But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world," Clinton told supporters in Concord.
"So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that," she added.
Two points in response. The first is that I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn't reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.
The other is that I think there's a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush's Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush's national security policy should be blamed on Bush's failed policies. Obama has a straight shot ("this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said") and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one ("this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect") whereas I'm not 100 percent sure what the Clinton message would be. Most of all, though, I think the politics of national security call for a strong, self-confident posture that genuinely believes liberal solutions are politically saleable and substantively workable, not the kind of worry-wort attitude that says we need to cower in fear every time Republicans say "terror."
Young Mr. Y is spot-on here. The last sentence says it all.
One could have perhaps excused the moral cowardice of surrendering the whole "terror" issue to the GOP for a week or so after 9-11. The shock of that horrible day drove some to temporary insanity.
But real leaders need to shake off their fears and fight for what is true and right. The fact is that EVERY time a Democrat like Ms. Clinton waves the white flag on the terror issue -- which means, of course, letting the GOP set the terms of that debate -- it becomes harder for the next Democrat to go against that bondeheaded "conventional wisdom."
I'm picking on Sen. Clinton, but this could apply to any number of Democrats, including every single one who gave us the pre-recess FISA surrender. (And sadly, that includes a Senator who I worked to get into office last year, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.)
Quite aside from anything else, the logic is absurd: the Republicans propose, and Democrats like Clinton support, the following idea:
- If there are no terrorist attacks in the United States before 2008, this is a big WIN for the Bush and the GOP. It shows that they know how to keep us safe.
- If there is a devastating terrorist attack in the United States before 2008, this is also a big WIN for Bush and the GOP. It shows that we need them to keep us safe.
Beyond ridiculous, of course.
But instead of pointing out that shameless nonsense, too many Democrats sign on to it.
Instead of taking the issue head-on, as will be required to defeat the nasty black magic of the GOP electoral machine, too many Democrats -- like Ms. Clinton -- think they can triangulate and borrow a little of that ugly mojo.
It won't work. It shouldn't work. And it's YEARS past the time when surrendering to the GOP on this level is acceptable.
Democrats need to stand up on their goddamned hind legs and start pointing out what everyone should know by now: that the Republican record on terrorism is a dismal failure, and that these feckless creeps couldn't "keep us safe" from a water balloon.
There's no need to surrender the issue of terrorism to the Republicans. There never was. And Democrats who insist on waving the white flag should be ashamed of their moral cowardice.
They don't deserve our support.
[UPDATE: Title edited for...maturity. Previously lacking. Sorry.]