Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Morning: Be Afraid /NOT Edition

Cheney daughter ignores tough questions Jan. 11: Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, joins Rachel Maddow to explore the strategy by Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz, to simultaneously overlook and distort the facts of former President Bush's record on terrorism while attacking President Obama.

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Greg Sargent: Poll: Majority Confident In Obama On Terror, Backs Handling Of Xmas Plot

Okay, some new polling from CNN just landed in the old in-box, and it appears to suggest that the public isn’t buying claims that Obama’s handling of the Christmas Day plot was too detached, cool, or weak:

As you know, a man has been charged with attempting to use an explosive device on Christmas Day to blow up a plane that was flying to Detroit. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama has responded to that incident?

Approve 57%
Disapprove 39%
No opinion 4%

The real way of telling whether Obama’s handling of that particular plot has hurt him is to poll on overall confidence in him, and here’s what CNN finds along those lines:

How much confidence do you have in the Obama administration to protect U.S. citizens from future acts of terrorism — a great deal, a moderate amount, not much or none at all?

A great deal 24%
A moderate amount 41%
Not much 19%
None at all 16%

These numbers are generally good for Obama, but not completely. Only one fourth has a “great deal” of confidence in Obama to protect them. That said, a big majority — 65% — has a great deal or a moderate amount of confidence.

And only 35% adopt the Cheney clan’s view that we should be curled up in the corner with our teeth chattering uncontrollably over lack of confidence in the Obama administration’s ability to protect us. That’s pretty remarkable, given that the Cheneys have been all over the airwaves making this case for months and months.

Now, it’s true that a majority thinks the bombing suspect should be tried in a military court, as the Cheneys and other GOPers have argued. But solid majorities don’t believe that the intel lapses that occured leading up to the foiled bombing should raise alarms about Obama’s overall approach — a pretty clear sign that terror may not yet have been reignited as a potent national political issue, as we keep hearing.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman noted earlier, "Cheney, Kristol and a lot of top Republicans in Washington are acting as unpaid PR agents for al Qaida, trying to turn even its failures into successes. The attempted bombing of Flight 253 was a terror attack; a terror attack succeeds only if it terrorizes its target audience."

Conservatives would, I suspect, find this deeply offensive. Suggesting that prominent right-wing voices are "acting as unpaid PR agents" for terrorists makes it sound as if conservatives hoping to undermine support for America's leadership are unpatriotic -- or worse.

But that's not the argument. The point isn't to characterize the Cheneys and other GOP attack dogs as terrorist sympathizers, it's to note that, in their zeal to weaken Obama's presidency, they're inadvertently giving U.S. enemies exactly what they're looking for. Fareed Zakaria wrote:

The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work. Alas, this one worked very well.

And it worked in part because prominent conservatives, desperate to make the president look bad, did exactly what al Qaeda hoped for: they characterized the failed terrorist attack as a "success." Indeed, both Brit Hume and Bill Kristol used that very word last week. As Matt Duss explained very well the other day, conservatives are "interested in promoting a specific, and politically advantageous, narrative about the nature" of terrorist threats. It just so happens that this narrative overlaps perfectly with the propaganda goals of al Qaeda -- an inconvenient detail Republicans prefer to ignore.

Or, as Adam Serwer put it just three days after the failed Abdulmutallab plot, "It's hard to imagine that even al-Qaeda thought they would get so much good publicity for a failed attack that resulted in the alleged attacker setting himself on fire and being neutralized by unarmed civilians.... Republicans have used the incident to exaggerate the ongoing threat al-Qaeda poses to the United States in order to score points against the administration, and in doing so, have given al-Qaeda the best reaction they could have hoped to get under the circumstances.... Islamic terrorists are criminals who like to imagine themselves as nigh-unstoppable holy warriors -- and the GOP's knee-jerk panic responses have helped cultivate that image."

Again, this is not to say that the Cheneys, Pete King, Pete Hoeksta, Michael Steele, Jim DeMint, and a wide variety of media personalities are secretly supporting al Qaeda or are actively trying to undermine U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. They're not. The point is that the GOP's reflexive, reactionary response to current events, driven entirely by an obsession to undermine U.S. leadership politically, unintentionally makes terrorists' p.r. efforts easier and more successful -- and Republicans' partisan blinders make this fact invisible to them.

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