Turning boon into boondoggle.

August 26, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

The Republican Party may have its share of PR problems, but common knowledge and polling data agree that the party still holds the upper hand on the issues of terrorism and national security. Polls also suggest that national security has a place close to the average American’s heart, especially after recent close-calls on national airlines.

But, as with so many other matters of partisan policy, the Republicans don’t really have any advantage over their political adversaries at all. Again, the Democrats seem to desperately struggle not with positions, but with effective marketing.

Take for example the 9/11 Commission’s report card, issued back in December of 2005. The report card reviewed the Bush Administration’s response to the bipartisan Commission’s list of well-researched recommendations, and it gave fairly dismal scores. I think the report card bears repeating, even some eight months later:

As many may recall, a major criticism that arose after 9/11 involved the fact that government agencies failed to share information adequately. As of December 2005, “Government-wide information sharing” still gets a pitiful “D”. And how Bush earned a “B” on the “balance between security and civil liberties”, I can’t even fathom.

Oh, and before I continue, a quick note: two of the December 2005 grades have an asterisk because of then-pending legislation to allocate government grants to states on the basis of their realistic risk of terrorist attacks. On paper- and on this report card- this sounds like a great idea, but in practice the legislation didn’t work. States greedily piled on supposed “terrorist threats” such as roller rinks and petting zoos in order to receive more funds. I doubt the 9/11 commission would give the current allocation an “A” as suggested on this chart.

This brings me to the title of this post. Republicans have leaned on 9/11 as one of their most reliable crutches; they have always seen issues of national security as the party’s definite boon. Looking at this report card, I feel yet another overwhelming sense of frustration with the Democrats. Properly employed, the Democrats could have used this finding to completely deconstruct the image of Republicans as tough on terrorism, and strong on national security.

Imagine what the Republicans would do in such a situation. Republican PR professionals have an astounding ability to repeat and exploit propaganda until it rings true. If real evidence suggested that the Democrats had bumbled incompetently through organizing national security, it would make the party even more of a slipshod laughingstock than in the impression conservatives have already crafted.

As the anniversary of 9/11 ever-nears (as does a crucial election), the Republicans no doubt ready themselves to terror-monger on its basis once again. Meanwhile, the 9/11 Commission and its findings go nearly forgotten, and a genuine political opportunity to reveal the Republican’s stance on security as a senseless, train-wreck boondoggle fades far away.


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Category: Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    I am still trapped in October, 2004, it seems. I'm hopeful but not optimistic. Yes, the republican leadership gives us no confidence; they deserve the bad grades they've received. But, even assuming that the Bush administration's grades have slipped further in the past 8 months, I have grave doubts whether the democrats can take advantage of this situation. Why? Because they are still unwilling to state what THEY would do on many key issues. For instance, note the Democrats' non-position on what to do in Iraq:

    The decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders' efforts to convince voters that they offer a clear new direction for the increasingly unpopular war.

    What is the Democrat position on domestic issues such as the relatively new Medicare benefits that this country cannot afford? What is the Democrat position on social security in light of the changing demographics? Are they going to reduce benefits, require higher age for eligibiity, both, or let the system pull us under? Who has a real plan for anything? They won't win much by calling Bush the failure that he is. The Republicans already have the answer to that strategy.  THEY are calling Bush incompetent and they are racking up a new set of Republican candidates who are going to argue that Bush had the right ideas but botched the execution of those ideas.

    With a few exceptions such as Russ Feingold and Ned Lamont, there is very little straight talking from the Democrats, as far as I can hear. Like I said, I'm hopeful but not optimistic.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    First, I think Erika is correct that Republicans have just one arrow in their quiver for this fall's election: exploiting the popular (though mistaken) belief that they will do a better job of protecting America against terrorism. As Erika says, the only way for Republicans to win with this one arrow is to make it appear very big and very frightening; i.e., they need to grossly overstate the threat of terrorism to make it appear to be the single biggest issue facing America. As I've already discussed, their assertion is utter nonsense (see my comment here: http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=397#comment-2… but it's an easy one to sell (see my post here: http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=426).

    I also agree with Erich, that most Democrats have been conspicuously silent about how to fix Bush's many failed policies, especially Iraq. I suspect there are two reasons for their silence: some Democrats have no clue what to do (Indeed, does anyone have a good plan for putting a smashed raw egg like Iraq back together?) and some Democrats simply don't want to share their good ideas with a Republican-controlled government (which would happily steal any good idea from Democrats and claim it as their own).

    In any case, I wish the political discussion about Iraq could move past the silence we hear from Democrats and the moronic "cut and run" rhetoric we hear from Republicans. Unfortunately, I don't see how this can happen, for a very simple reason. Bush recently said, "If we leave Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists will follow us home." Bush doesn't appear to have any idea what "the job" is, nor does he appear to understand that the people blowing up Americans in Iraq are not "terrorists," but insurgents, who merely want American troops out of their country. They are NOT terrorists who are going to "follow us home," at least not in numbers large enough to justify the enormous cost of keeping 138,000 American troops in Iraq.

    And therein lies the real problem: when our Commander-in-Chief is an unmitigated imbecile, how can anyone in Washington know what to do? Republicans stumble around trying to support their idiot leader without simultaneously destroying their own political careers, while Democrats know that even if they propose good ideas, the Republicans will steal them and probably botch the implementation. To make matters even worse, Bush has sought to illegally inflate his own power, thus making his moronic, autocratic decisions that much more destructive.

    The only solution I can see is to oust as many Republicans as possible in this fall's election, impeach our idiot President, and get some people into power who can move the discussion past the current political stalemate. As the last six years have demonstrated, the Bush Administration and its lapdog Republicans in Congress don't even acknowledge the problem, much less understand how to fix it.

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