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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Trumping the Terror Card

Some politics from Slate. Should Democrats play the scare game too?:

Scare Them Back, by John Dickerson, Slate: Of course Republicans are trying to scare voters into voting for them. Why shouldn't they? ... As a political tactic, how could the GOP resist? Scaring voters has worked in past elections, allows Republicans to highlight issues of law and order and national security that have been their traditional strengths, and it forces Democrats into fits and unforced errors.

Last Wednesday, the president joined the effort. "They want us to cut and run," he said, marking his first use of the loaded phrase to characterize his Iraq-war opponents. "And there's some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run. They're not bad people when they say that, they're decent people. I just happen to believe they're wrong." They're not bad sniveling cowards, I just happen to believe they're wrong sniveling cowards. The president went on to suggest that a show of weakness in Iraq will lead to more deaths in the United States. "If we leave before the mission is complete, if we withdraw, the enemy will follow us home."

The message is clear: Vote for Democrats and more Americans will die. For the president and Republicans to pretend this isn't their political message is silly...

Democrats have not responded well to the simple GOP cut-and-run attack. Their message has been mixed and hypocritical. ... Here's my advice: The Democrats should embrace fear-mongering more passionately. They should embrace the tradition of the "missile gap"—the idea that the United States dangerously trailed the Soviet Union in missile firepower—that in the late 1950s helped young Sen. John Kennedy attack then-President Dwight Eisenhower. This would be good politics, and it would stir a good and currently muffled policy debate....

The question the Democrats should be asking is whether Bush's policies are inspiring the people who want to kill us. Since Republicans argue that if you elect Democrats, more Americans will die, it's logical for Democrats to ask whether continuing the current policies will cause more American deaths. Were the London plotters captured last week hyper-motivated by Bush's policies? The idea is to shift the debate from whether the Democrats would do a better job if they were in charge to whether giving them some control—a majority in one house of Congress, for starters—might lessen the degree to which George Bush and his Republican majority represent an ever-better recruitment tool for extremists.

This question derives from a central one that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked in his famous October 2003 memo: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" In the short term, the answer seems to be no. ...

My fear is that Democrats won't have the guts to fight fear with fear, perhaps because they don't want to be accused of being politically craven on an issue where they are weak. Maybe in the end, as a political matter they won't pay a stiff price for failing to. Polling suggests that the GOP effort to fan the fear-mongering flames in the wake of the London arrests and Ned Lamont victory have not increased the GOP's standing. Still, if Democrats don't aggressively ask whether the Republican policies are inspiring a greater number of people to devote their lives to killing Americans than would otherwise be the case, we'll miss a chance to have the kind of messy, realism-filled public debate we somehow continue to skirt. Democrats should stretch beyond the bumper sticker and ask the really scary questions.

Asking whether our actions have increased terrorist recruitment and increased the acceptability of terrorist actions as a strategy of resistance against the US within the broader community is not an "embrace fear-mongering" as the article calls it. It's an important question that needs to be asked.

    Posted by on Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 03:03 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics, Terrorism | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (42)

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