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December 10, 2004

Is Terrorism Important?

Gerald Dworkin: December 10, 2004

A commentator on my post Domestic Security says: “I don't think scant attention to civil defense sunk the Democrats. Kerry addressed domestic security over and over again. He talked about the absurdity of x-raying airline passengers and not cargo holds. He promised to do something about the huge number of cargo containers that enter our ports without being inspected. He promised to double the number of special forces operatives...”

This is true, but it seems to me that this did not convince enough voters who were concerned about domestic security issues so the question is why not. Well, if I were an undecided voter I would be concerned about things like the following. The New York Times asked delegates at the Democratic and Republican convention about which issues they thought were most important. 2% of Democratic delegates said terrorism; 15% of Republican delegates mentioned terrorism. Only 1% said homeland security was important. Michael Moore went around the country proclaiming there was no terrorist threat. Those who attacked the Patriot Act rarely proposed changes which would be more effective in protecting us against domestic attack, as opposed to changes which would protect us against increased governmental surveillance.  It wasn’t clear that the Democratic activists or Kerry saw domestic security as a central issue comparable, say, to preserving Social Security or to doing something about the health care mess.

 Now it may be that the view that terrorism is not a threat, or it is relatively minor when compared to other threats, is correct. Perhaps we ought to be more worried about a bird-flu pandemic and less worried about another 9/11. If that is the case we ought to be making that argument. But if that view is incorrect, and if the threat of terrorism is a long-range and serious one, then we would be making very different arguments. We would attack the tax cuts for depriving us of funds that ought to be going to the military, or homeland security, or intelligence gathering. We would be arguing for more troops in Afghanistan  where the goverment basically rules only Kabul.

It is one thing to attack the Administration for incompetence, ignorance and arrogance in fighting terrorism. It is another thing to think that the goal itself is mistaken.

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» Now We're Cookin' With Gas from Liberals Against Terrorism

Gerald Dworkin at the brand new blog Left2Right deserves to have his post replicated in full, because he makes an important point:

A commentator on my pos [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 10, 2004 12:05:16 PM

Comments

Posted by: Will

Your last sentence is one I agree with strongly. In many discussions I have with conservatives over foreign policy there is the misconception that my criticism of the administrations decisions and actions implies that I support an isolationist or "do nothing" approach.

Eventually we have to have two discussions. The first is over which foreign policy decisions I disagree with and why, and the second over what course of action I would rather pursue.

Posted by: Will | Dec 10, 2004 11:13:09 AM


Posted by: Tike

Can liberals be tough on terror?

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200412100857.asp

Posted by: Tike | Dec 10, 2004 11:16:34 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

I apologize in advance if this is completely off the mark, but statements like:

But if that view is incorrect, and if the threat of terrorism is a long-range and serious one, then we would be making very different arguments. We would attack the tax cuts for depriving us of funds that ought to be going to the military, or homeland security, or intelligence gathering.

...sounds to my ears like...

We need to attack tax cuts, but the arguments we use don't seem to be resonating with the public. Is there another way we can justify higher taxes that will have more appeal to Joe and Suzy Voter?

Again, if I'm misreading, I'm sorry, but this looks less like a statement about terrorist threat, and more a statement about how you should spin terrorist threat. An awful lot of political strategy on both sides seems as transparent as, "here's what we want to do. What story would you buy for why we should do it?"

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 10, 2004 11:18:06 AM


Posted by: Steve

I sense that this is really a post for Democrats-what do we believe and how do we express it? Rather than an invitation for discussion between Democrats and Republicans (or if you prefer, liberals and conservatives).
But I can tell you from the conservative perspective that it is a pretty good description of the issue. I think conservatives assume that critiques of the War or the Administration are in fact critiques of the goals, and not just of the process. We assume when your critiques of Abu Graib (as one random example) aren't designed to improve the execution of the war, but rather to knock the Americans down a notch in their own views, the views of the world, and even of their own standing in the world. In harsh, frank terms, we assume you want what's worse for the country, not what's better.
Or to put it another way: if, deep down, the Democratic Party is still the party of Harry Truman, even I could conceivably vote for a Democrat (and I am pretty conservative). But is it, deep down, the party of Harry Truman? Or even JFK? If so, then your problem is one of image: don't let the Party be defined by the anti-war protest of Kerry, or the Bush=Hitler posters at most liberal rallies nowadays (not unusual, by the way: I came of political age during Reagan, and remember the Reagan=Hitler crap back then), or the wit and wisdom of Michael Moore.
If not, though, and Michael Moore, anti-Vietnam protest, and anti-globalization riots ARE the heart of the Party, I would say you've got a more serious long-term problem. To be honest with you, I'm skeptical. I bet there are modern day Harry Trumans out there somewhere. But they are trapped in state legislatures or city governments (or are named Liebermann or Miller). They didn't sit with the elder statesmen at the Democratic Convention last summer: Michael did.

Steve

Posted by: Steve | Dec 10, 2004 11:30:27 AM


Posted by: Mattmli

S. Weasel,

Now, maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it almost sounds like you think there are people, or a significant group of people, that want to raise taxes for its own sake. Maybe there are such, but that would be really weird, wouldn't it? I thought Dworkin's point was quite clearly that realistically fighting terrorism is going to be expensive if we want to do it well, and given that, tax cuts, especially since we've already got a pretty big deficite, are probably not a part of a realistic plan to fight terrorism. Now, that may be wrong, but it's not crazy or devious. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying Dworkin's position sounds like?

Posted by: Mattmli | Dec 10, 2004 11:33:26 AM


Posted by: Henry Woodbury

Did Joe Lieberman speak at the Democratic Convention? I think there are a lot of moderate to liberal hawks who saw Lieberman go down in the primaries and began to doubt what the Democrats were thinking.

Following up on S. Weasel's comment, when I heard Kerry rail about port security, while tiptoeing around the Patriot Act, it was hard not to wonder if Kerry thought he the right way to fight terrorism was with a regulatory agency.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury | Dec 10, 2004 11:41:34 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Now, maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it almost sounds like you think there are people, or a significant group of people, that want to raise taxes for its own sake.

Not quite. I mean that they want to raise taxes for the usual reasons they want to raise taxes, to support the usual programs they want to support. After all, all tax monies go into the same big pot, regardless of the rationale for collecting them.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 10, 2004 11:42:43 AM


Posted by: mw

Well, I have the strong sense that, like Michael Moore, a lot of Democrats think that the risk of terrorism is overblown and that it's more a 'wedge issue' that Bush uses to his advantage rather than a genuine threat.

Mixed in with that, but distinct from the threat of terror attacks on US soil, is the global struggle with islamofascism. Many on the left (including those in the US) are mystifyingly accomodating toward Islamist fundamentalists--excusing or overlooking not just the tactics of terror but the oppression of women, the intolerance toward gays, the hostility to open and pluralistic societies, etc.

A lot of Americans don't trust Democrats on these issues (this what what Peter Beinart's piece in the New Republic was addressing).

Using the war on terror as a way of re-casting opposition to tax cuts isn't going to fool many people if they sense that the opposition to tax cuts is the primary issue and terror is secondary.

Posted by: mw | Dec 10, 2004 12:11:34 PM


Posted by: Ted

Weasel hits on the head.

I see nothing wrong with financing a war (as what happened in the Civil War, WW2, etc) - after all, wars are fought for the safety of the children of tommorow. So why shouldn't they pay for it?

However, I suspect the whines from the Left about the "deficit" have more to do with the object of the spending (i.e. the military vs. "social" programs) than with the financing.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 12:15:27 PM


Posted by: Terrier

S. Weasel - was he was really saying: the threat of terrorism is so serious that we must respond to it with all our resources? Nah, he just wanted your money.

Read this article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-12-08-terror-database_x.htm
and tell me the current administration is serious about terrorism.

It should be clear to anyone with eyes, that to the current administration, terrorism is only an excuse to invade Iraq and fill voters with fear.

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 10, 2004 12:16:36 PM


Posted by: mw

Here's a link I should have included in my last message:

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041220&s=trb122004

Beinart's follow-up to his original articles is actually focused on the question at hand -- namely why the WOT and struggle against Islamist Totalitarians should be central concern of liberals.

Posted by: mw | Dec 10, 2004 12:18:05 PM


Posted by: Mike

I think this is an interesting post. We need to discuss how big the terrorist threat really is. This is something that seem somewhat taboo. John Kerry didn't addess it, but he seems to be trying to straddle the antiwar/prowar line, and is all too comfortable with the PATRIOT Act. Michael Moore didn't really seem to address why we shouldn't be concerned so much about terrorism, but I think the left should really question how much they trust the man and his accuracy. However, the fact of the matter about terrorism may be unpopular if explained.

However, CATO did address this issue. Or at least one author from CATO did. And he concluded that the terrorist problem isn't the threat it is made out to be. 9/11 was big, but it didn't raise the death rate of people in the US due to terrorism above many other factors that we take as insignificant.

The points can be sumarized (not by me, I believe by Will Wilkinson) as:

* Assessed in broad but reasonable context,
terrorism generally does not do much damage.
* The costs of terrorism very often are the
result of hasty, ill-considered, and
overwrought reactions.

The article can be found here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv27n3/v27n3-5.pdf

Posted by: Mike | Dec 10, 2004 12:18:19 PM


Posted by: Daniel M.

I think the outcome was based on the person, not the political ideology. Kerry as paternalistic president was never going to happen. As a Bostonian, I never had a doubt that our junior senator would lose.

Posted by: Daniel M. | Dec 10, 2004 12:18:44 PM


Posted by: Deb Frisch

"It is one thing to attack the Administration for incompetence, ignorance and arrogance in fighting terrorism. It is another thing to think that the goal itself is mistaken."

Yup. Some people think dubya's a moron because of how he mangled the war in iraq. Others think he's a moron because the whole "war on terrorism" is an oxymoronic, self-defeating waste of money and Marines.

Is this really news to anyone?

Posted by: Deb Frisch | Dec 10, 2004 12:37:32 PM


Posted by: Terrier

"Well, I have the strong sense that, like Michael Moore, a lot of Democrats think that the risk of terrorism is overblown and that it's more a 'wedge issue' that Bush uses to his advantage rather than a genuine threat."

It is really useless for me to read posts like this. Most of the posts by so-called conservatives I have read on this site are of the same ilk. "Rush told me Liberals want to eat my children and I think they are bad!" It should open some Liberal eyes to note that not only are these people ill-informed about the actions of the current administration, they also know almost nothing about what Liberals actually believe. They live in an echo-chamber and insulate themselves from any information that might upset the delicate balance they have achieved between what they want and what they believe is right. The most vehemently anti-war person I know right now is my best friend, who until this last year was a Conservative Republican. We never discussed politics at all until this year because we knew we were on opposite ends and didn't want that to affect our friendship. He just spontaneously told me one day that he was disgusted with Bush and the whole administration for the lies, incompetence and murder that they represented. He is actually very concerned about terrorism but does not believe the current administration is.

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 10, 2004 12:39:43 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Yup. Some people think dubya's a moron because of how he mangled the war in iraq. Others think he's a moron because the whole "war on terrorism" is an oxymoronic, self-defeating waste of money and Marines.

And some people think the left is incapable of dilineating a position on this issue that isn't simply a list of all the ways George Bush got it wrong. You have to do better than this if you ever want to sit in the big leather chair again.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 10, 2004 12:45:07 PM


Posted by: Terrier

OK, I would not waste my time compiling a list of terror-threatened sites. I would protect what was clearly vulnerable first. For example: government buildings, office towers, chemical plats, power plants, ports, airports and hospitals. So why aren't we doing this?

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 10, 2004 12:57:10 PM


Posted by: Ted

Let me sum up Terrier's post: Everyone here who disagrees with him is stupid, uninformed or just repeating what Rush told them to say.

Did I get it right? Or is Terrier just a troll doing satire?

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 12:57:26 PM


Posted by: Ted

Terrier also has a crystal ball. Please tell me who to bet on for the next World Series, oh annointed psychic one!

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 12:58:28 PM


Posted by: Mona

As a libertarian who supports Bush's WOT policies, I long ago tuned out any voices of the far left, including those who oppose the war in Iraq. But I do carefully consider anti-war arguments from sources such as Cato. The latter, I am certain, are not driven by anti-American animus and they do not see the U.S. as the Source of All Evil. In sum, they are the loyal opposition.

The far left is the disloyal opposition. David Horowitz explains that well here: http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16259 and he quotes Beinart's New Republic piece.

The academic left does little to nothing to discourage campus rallies where signs announcing Bush=Hitler or some such deranged nonsense are on prominent display. It does little if anything to repudiate their own who, as Horowitz demonstrates, openly are rooting for our enemies and our defeat in the war. This is seen, and many of us object to the tolerance for such noxious politics.

The sheer anti-Americanism that is unexceptional on many campuses is now is the spotlight, courtesy of blogs. In the insular academy, overtly anti-American politics are a ho-hum, quotidian thing, but one that has not heretofor been subjected to instant and widespread lampooning and repudiation. The blog community denominates adherents of Bush=Hitler & such as "barking moonbats." We do not take those of you who advocate extreme left views seriously. We mock you. This pours over into contempt for academics at large.

So, I think a blog such as this one is a fine idea. I for one do not expect left-wing academics to change their minds, but I would hope those who hold their positions in good faith, and who are loyal opponents of Bush's policies, would be willing to undertake some housecleaning in their academic community, and become more vocal in denouncing the all-too-acceptable extremists in your midst.

Posted by: Mona | Dec 10, 2004 1:07:05 PM


Posted by: votermom

At the risk of sounding terribly idealistic:
Somthing about the idea of the "war on terror" bothers me and it's hard to articulate, and maybe someone else can say it better. It has something to do with international justice, or maybe international injustice.
9/11 was a great tragedy, and a great injustice against the victims.
But where do terrorists recruit from -- from people who feel they have nothing left to lose. From extremely angry people. Why hasn't 9/11 prompted any national discussion on working toward peace and justice, instead of focusing entirely on increasingly violent reprisals on perceived terrorist threats?

Posted by: votermom | Dec 10, 2004 1:09:03 PM


Posted by: Terrier

No my post is this: no matter what I say, as a Liberal, I am by definition wrong and trying to steal your money. Because that's all you ever listen to then it must be right. It also must be all you ever listen to because that is all I ever hear from you. Communication is a two-way street. If you're too busy defining me to actually listen to what I am saying then why the hell are you here?

Posted by: Terrier | Dec 10, 2004 1:10:43 PM


Posted by: Ted

"Why hasn't 9/11 prompted any national discussion on working toward peace and justice, instead of focusing entirely on increasingly violent reprisals on perceived terrorist threats?"

This makes no sense since Bush has articulated that some of the strategy with Iraq is to bring democracy and stability to the Middle-East.

I also find it sad you assume if someone is angry they must be just or in the right. Rapists are angry toward women, yet nobody tries to discuss peace and justice with them while they are raping a woman.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:19:00 PM


Posted by: Ted

Terrier: Are you purposely trying to be ironic? or a bad parody of a liberal? (seriously, at least write a good troll to make me laugh!)

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:20:09 PM


Posted by: Steve

Votermom-
As you may well be aware, most of the people who 'did' 9/11 were upper middle class (Saudi Arabians and I think Egyptians). I am wondering why you think the United States is responsible for the phsychological state of the Saudi Arabian middle class.

Steve

Posted by: Steve | Dec 10, 2004 1:20:18 PM


Posted by: Hal

Gerald, perhaps what's needed by those who think terrorism is such an overarching threat is some analysis that shows this is indeed the case. Check out the FBI statistics on terrorism - particularly domestic terrorism (over at MIPT, for example. Several things about these statistics stand out like sore thumbs. First, the greatest terrorism threat we face is from domestic terrorism from our own people - not from foreigners. Second, over 2 decades, the number of deaths and injuries isn't even in the same order of magnitude of deaths caused by - say - traffic accidents (40,000 deaths a year). From a pure cost/benefit perspective (not something I'm advocating, mind you) it's clear that tackling smoking (440,000 deaths per year) would have a far greater benefit than dealing with the 3,200 deaths over two decades.

It's pretty clear what's happening. It's not a rational response to an impending danger. I wouldn't say that it's an overblown threat - things change, and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are a real threat. But it's completely clear that the magnitude of the response we're having is out of whack with the reality of the situation. It's a response of irrational fear which is being expertly manipulated.

I completely understand that the reality of the situation has little to do with the political realities. But those on the "we need to get tougher on terror" side of the fence have a huge burden of proof to overcome - the facts simply belie your case. Again, there is a difference between the perception and the reality of the situation. And saying that we're not tough enough on terror is like saying we're not tough enough on the butt itching rays that are emanating from the soviet union.

I know I'm speaking heresy, and I certainly don't mean to diminish the real pain and suffering by those who are victims and survivors of such horrific acts. And I certainly don't mean to suggest that terrorist threats don't exist (as they say in the financial field, past performance is not a guarantor of future events).

But clearly, there's a cognitive dissonance here that is simply not being addressed.

Perhaps it's time we just stop assuming there's an impending threat of unimaginable proportions and start analyzing what we're dealing with in a reality-based fashion? Let's talk about why it is that terrorism is perceived to be such a tremendous threat and what it is that we can do to address that perception. If terrorism really isn't a threat as the statistics show it isn't, then it won't matter one whit about how liberals are perceived in this policy area because it's all about illusion and peddling illusion is what the current right excels at.

Flame away, those on the right (and left)

Posted by: Hal | Dec 10, 2004 1:23:48 PM


Posted by: enzo rossi

Mona,

Do you think that, back in 1942, it would have been right for a German to wish for her country's victory in WW2?

This is not to say that I think Bush is even remotely as bad as Hitler. I am not even saying that we should wish for the US to lose the 'war on terror'. Rather, I'm trying to argue that, at least in principle, there are situations in which supporting one's country is the morally wrong thing to do. In other words, there seems to be nothing intrinsically immoral with not supporting one's country, even in war.

If I'm right about this, then you shouldn't say that some people ought to be isolated (silenced?) just because they wish the US to lose the 'war on terror', or because their actions will make it more likely that the US will lose this 'war'.

Posted by: enzo rossi | Dec 10, 2004 1:33:16 PM


Posted by: Ted

Hal: Need we bother? You are not concerned with the MURDER ATTEMPT of 30,000 of our citizens in broad daylight in our largest city, which resulted in the actual murder and injury of thousands and the associated pain and suffering of their friends, family and our nation as a whole. And you poo-poo a WMD attack, which could potentially murder millions. But at least we don't need to take YOU seriously in any argument about the War, as you obviously don't give two shits about it (thats for being honest). Yeah, let's talk about the statistics of failed "progressive" social programs over the last 40 years - oops, you don't want to do that!

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:34:11 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Look, the question ACTUALLY asked in the NY Times survey of the Democratic and Republican delegates was, "What do you think will be the most important campaign issue in your state?"

Don't you think that this question, an assessment of the politics of the issue, is a million miles away from your construal of it, which pretty obviously assumes that the delegates are expressing their PERSONAL views?

Isn't it also pretty obvious that delegates will see their answers as having a political effect, and will, at least very often, try to stress the issues most favorable to their candidates? And isn't it pretty obvious too that terrorism was NOT an issue that favored Democrats, in today's political milieu, fairly or not, and DID favor Bush?

As for Michael Moore, could someone explain to me why his opinions are considered in any way core to the Democratic Party? If you're going to make your point, don't you think that it might do you well to stick either to Democratic national politicians, or functionaries in the Democratic apparatus who actually have some clout? If you can't find a SINGLE quote from such a person supporting the view that Democrats are actually relatively unconcerned with terrorism, doesn't that give you a little clue that the criticism might be wholly misguided?

No one will dispute that the Republicans enjoy, in the public's eye, the PERCEPTION of greater concern about terrorism. Yet is it based in any reality, or is it almost purely posturing and swaggering?

The irony of the accusation of indifference to terrorism is that, before 9/11, it was almost ONLY Democrats who took it seriously -- consider Clinton, Gore, and Sandy Berger. A fair analysis of our current political situation would try to explain how it is that, after 9/11, it was Republicans, not Democrats, who were able to convince the public that it was THEY who took terrorism with appropriate gravity, despite the history.

Posted by: frankly0 | Dec 10, 2004 1:34:18 PM


Posted by: Ted

"This is not to say that I think Bush is even remotely as bad as Hitler."

Thanks for the disclaimer. Nice bait and switch in your argument. This is like watching community college social studies teachers "argue."

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:36:46 PM


Posted by: Nekretaal

I'm not sure that "Terrorism" really is all that important as a political issue.

George W. Bush's 2004 position on Terrorism differed almost entirely from his 2000 position on nation building. John Kerry's smart separation of Iraq from terrorism as a political issue and his clumsy "terroism as a nusiance" statements offered voters a real choice.

But, if terrorism was really so important, why didn't anybody's votes change? Why did John Kerry's militarist pose as the Democratic National Convention "reporting for duty," result in no post convention poll bounce?

The issues and solutions were completely different and new from what was offered to voters in 2000, but almost the red states (and precincts!) remained red, and the blue states remained blue.

I'm just not sure that terrorism really is as important to the outcome of votes as everybody seems to think that it is.

I think that the terrorism issue forced an awakened public to "rally around" the positions taken by their leaders. If I'm correct, then terrorism has not matured as a philosphical issue with the American public, and the "moral values" issue is even more important to voting outcomes than polls observe.

Posted by: Nekretaal | Dec 10, 2004 1:40:59 PM


Posted by: Ted

"As for Michael Moore, could someone explain to me why his opinions are considered in any way core to the Democratic Party?"

Because he was shown in a room with Jimmy Carter. Seriously, you are on to something with the perception thing.

The Dems should do themselves a favor and throw Mr. Moore on his bum. Even this sometimes Republican would cheer, even if it cost the GOP votes. The question is why they haven't done this (unless many do agree with him?)

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:43:02 PM


Posted by: Ted

"But, if terrorism was really so important, why didn't anybody's votes change?"

But votes DID change...the GOP won by a wider margin.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:46:23 PM


Posted by: Hal

"The question is why they haven't done this"

Gee, I don't know. The question is why haven't you thrown out Ann Coulter on her bum or Limbaugh, or O'Reilly (unless many on the right actually agree with them)?

Posted by: Hal | Dec 10, 2004 1:49:36 PM


Posted by: Ted

Were Ann Coulter, Rush or O'Reilly sitting in Gerry Ford's box at the GOP convention? Refresh my memory. Comparing a guy who compare Iraqi insurgents to "American minutemen" to Rush and O'Reilly - HILARITY. Is this satire? As a sometimes voter of the GOP, I hope it isn't (eight more years!!!!).

PS: Coulter was thrown on her skinny bum when she was fired by National Review. Oh the humanity!

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 1:57:16 PM


Posted by: Henry Woodbury

Frankly0 -- If Clinton and Sandy Berger are examples of Democrats taking terrorism seriously, I think you've answered the question of why Republicans get the benefit of perceptions.

Bush certainly didn't talk about terrorism much when he ran for president in 2000 (McCain was much more hawkish), but his administration did attempt to sieze and hold the initiative in the war on terror after the September 11th attacks.

The outcome may be near term success (Afghanistan)and a long term disaster. Or it may be middle term disaster (Iraq) and long term success. Or disaster all the way.

In contrast, the rope-a-dope approach of securing domestic entry points, pursuing international terrorism through crime-fighting mechanisms, and counterpunching after the occasional terrorist success (e.g. Clinton's mid-90s cruise missile attacks) may well be the better long term strategy, and it is probably the one the US will revert to as the Iraq war plays itself out.

But the Bush Administration is seen rightly as adopting a bold strategy, whatever its merits, and the Democrats as shying away from it.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury | Dec 10, 2004 2:03:04 PM


Posted by: mw

"As for Michael Moore, could someone explain to me why his opinions are considered in any way core to the Democratic Party?"

Because a raft of prominent Democrats turned out for a special Washington screening of Fahrenheit 9/11? Because of the words of praise they had for the film after seeing it (Terry McAuliffe, in particular)? Because of Moore's prominent, seat-of-honor location at the convention?

If leading Democrats were trying to hold Moore at arms length, they certainly made a very poor job of it.

Posted by: mw | Dec 10, 2004 2:10:06 PM


Posted by: Hal

Wow, I didn't know the National Review was the seat of power in the Republican party. Who knew?

Posted by: Hal | Dec 10, 2004 2:10:35 PM


Posted by: Nekretaal

"But votes DID change...the GOP won by a wider margin."

Actually, the GOP increased its popular vote margin by about 3%. This happened across the board, and wasn't particularly concentrated in any particular group or region of "swing" voters.

Even if all 3% of the popular vote change could be attributed to George Bush's prosecution of terror policy (and not to to factors such as moral values or having the advantage of incumbancy this time), Terrorism's relevance as an issue turned out to be pathetically small.

C'mon. Three entire wars were entered into by George Bush (Afghanistan, Iraq, and "terror"), the American pubic wasn't ignorant of these changes, and only three states changed their votes?

Posted by: Nekretaal | Dec 10, 2004 2:12:30 PM


Posted by: Ted

Pathetically small? Looking at the margins involved, and the increase across the board, I would say it was large enough for four more years of Bush's anti-terror policies.

It could be terrorism was simply not a relevent issue among most who voted Kerry...but this will not win elections for the Democrats.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 2:19:00 PM


Posted by: slarrow

Actually, Hal, I'll leave it to Gerald to flame away. This is a conflict between the two of you. For what it's worth, most of us on the Right think terrorism is important and that relying on statistics is a flawed way to evaluate the threat. Kevin Drum made much the same kind of reply to Beinart; the problem just isn't that big. To which those of us on the right reply: oh, would you like to wait until it becomes big?

You know what the Right thinks of the goal; good luck to you and Gerald in working through what the Left ought to think of it.

Posted by: slarrow | Dec 10, 2004 2:21:34 PM


Posted by: Hal

Hmmm. I seem to remember the same argument lines regarding Global Warming, the environment and just about any of the other issues the right likes to denegrate and deride with cost/benefit analysis. It seems your line of reasoning would lead us to conclude that we should be drastically cutting back on oil usage to prevent "The Day After" from becoming a reality, shouldn't we? Or we should be dumping trillions into asteroid defences because "would you like to wait until it becomes a big problem?".

Posted by: Hal | Dec 10, 2004 2:32:22 PM


Posted by: Mike DePaul

If the goal of this blog is to promote a higher level of poltical dialog and if this thread -- the first I have read -- is any indication, then the chances of attaining the goal are grim.

The first thing one notices is that very few of the comments are actually on point. If commentors could exercise some self control by sticking to the point, I think the quality of this discussion would improve a fair amount.

A second thing that would, in my opinion, improve the quality of the discussion would be responding to what other contributors to the blog have actually written. Whether a person considers him or her self liberal, conservative or moderate, my guess is that he or she only feels responsible for his or her own views, not the views of everyone else who self identifies in the same way.

A last suggestion: Why not suppose that at least those who contribute to this blog tell the truth. When someone writes one thing, why suppose that what that person means is something different -- and inevitably grossly false. Operating on the basis of such an anti-charitable principle is no way to conduct a mature discussion.

Posted by: Mike DePaul | Dec 10, 2004 2:36:08 PM


Posted by: Ted

Hal thinks the attemped murder of 30,000, the actual murder of thousands and continue threats to murder more is just a "theory" like Global Warming or maybe just a movie like the "The Day After."

I applaud his honesty.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 2:37:07 PM


Posted by: Nekretaal

"Pathetically small? Looking at the margins involved, and the increase across the board, I would say it was large enough for four more years of Bush's anti-terror policies.

It could be terrorism was simply not a relevent issue among most who voted Kerry...but this will not win elections for the Democrats."

Extremely Pathetically small.

In fact, this election represented the smallest shift of state electoral voting in my lifetime. The three tiny states that did change their voting patterns might even have only done so on the basis of freak weather (Snowstorms in NM in 2000, Iowa in 2004).

The issue didn't do much for Democratic outcomes that can be oserved with results, but it didn't do much for Republican outcomes either.

Posted by: Nekretaal | Dec 10, 2004 2:37:41 PM


Posted by: Ted

Nekretaal: Blaming the weather -- yeah that will get you places.

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 2:39:25 PM


Posted by: Hal

The threats of global warming are very real. So is the threat of total global anihilation by an asteroid. I never said the threats of terrorism aren't real. Just that when compared to the very real deaths of over 400,000 a year in the US due to smoking, the threats seem quite small in comparison. Or are you saying that having 400,000 people die every year is something that we should just cast aside to focus on the 3,200 over two decades?

Posted by: Hal | Dec 10, 2004 2:41:20 PM


Posted by: votermom

Thanks for the response to my questions.

Me: "Why hasn't 9/11 prompted any national discussion on working toward peace and justice, instead of focusing entirely on increasingly violent reprisals on perceived terrorist threats?"

Ted: This makes no sense since Bush has articulated that some of the strategy with Iraq is to bring democracy and stability to the Middle-East.

And that's working ... how? If that is his true intention, heads in his cabinet should have rolled by now, for sheer incompetency. If, on the other hand, his goal is to install a client state in Iraq, I can see that he's still got a chance of succeeding.

I also find it sad you assume if someone is angry they must be just or in the right. Rapists are angry toward women, yet nobody tries to discuss peace and justice with them while they are raping a woman.

First, I condemn their actions. Murder is murder. Second, I don't assume they have justification for their anger, but neither do I assume they do not. What I do wonder at is the fairly wide support of their actions in their geographic areas of origins. What is going on there that they are not universally condemned? When OBL issued a "press release" saying "we do not hate your freedom, we hate your policies", and the National Science Defense Board has a report echoing this "they hate our policies" -- why is there no discussion in the media of this policies? What kind of society does Saudi Arabia have anyway? Peachy keen, from what I can tell from tv coverage.

Steve:As you may well be aware, most of the people who 'did' 9/11 were upper middle class (Saudi Arabians and I think Egyptians). I am wondering why you think the United States is responsible for the phsychological state of the Saudi Arabian middle class.

I think, historically, it's always been the middle class taking the leadership for social change, whether violent or non-violent. The poor are too busy struggling to survive, and they cannot afford the personal risk. The middle class has access to resources and education.

I am not saying the US is responsible for their psychological state. I think that there is great injustice in the world, and we ignore it at our peril. The more the US is seen as looking the other way, or worse, profiting from injustice, the more attractive a target it becomes. In some cases we may be nothing more than a scapegoat.

I did say I have trouble articulating it. Maybe the parable of the Good Samaritan. If someone is being beaten up, and you cross to the other side of the road to avoid trouble, it doesn't mean you're responsible for the person who got beat up. That is true. However, can you see how the person who got beat up may not be very fond of you after that? What makes it one step worse is if the person who did the beating up is your friend.

I'm truly not saying that if we get attacked it's all our fault. I'm saying I feel we're being sucked into a vicious cycle of violence here that is going to just keep escalating.

Posted by: votermom | Dec 10, 2004 2:45:05 PM


Posted by: Ted

1. Global warming and asteroids are beyond our contral, and probably will occur with or without human internvention sometime beyond our lifetimes.

2. Smoking is a chosen behavior. Murder is not. I reason one of the purposes of government is to prevent and punish murder. If you do not, there is no need to continue this discussion.

3. Why have you not addressed my point that 30,000 were victims of attempted murder on 9-11?

Posted by: Ted | Dec 10, 2004 2:46:48 PM


Posted by: Nekretaal

But, normally you would expect that states would chnge their votes, because the candidates and issues are always different. This year, the candidates and issues were different, and nobody changed their votes. In fact, for the few changes that did happen in some of the smallest states, weather might have even been the most proximate cause? Not that the overall election result would have swung on weather, but why didn't anybody's vote change in a year when terrorism was the main political issue?

Other posters have mentioned the environment. I think that's a great analogy. The government has a legitimate role in regulating the environment and prosecuting terror. However, absent a no major disaster, the amount of people who can be "swung" by political appeals on these issues is insignificant.

Posted by: Nekretaal | Dec 10, 2004 2:52:28 PM


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