REPUBLICANS AND NATIONAL SECURITY….Ed Kilgore writes about the current national security landscape:

Back during the last presidential campaign, I became convinced, mainly through conversations with undecided voters back home in Georgia who wound up voting for Bush’s re-election, that the most powerful thing the incumbent had going for him was a rough and unsophisticated argument that went like this: Some Arabs came here and killed a bunch of Americans. George Bush went over to Iraq and killed even more Arabs. Since then there have been no attacks. He must be doing something right.

I had that exact same conversation with a friend prior to the election, and it took me by considerable surprise. “We haven’t been attacked since 9/11,” he told me, “and back then I would have bet big money against that.”

Which just goes to show….something. My first thought in the aftermath of 9/11 was that it was a brilliantly planned one-off attack and that a serious followup was pretty unlikely, especially given the massively heightened security that we put up afterward. Since I didn’t expect any big follow-on attacks, the fact that we didn’t have any didn’t affect my perceptions of George Bush one way or the other.

Obviously I was in the minority, though, and Ed thinks that Bush profited mightily from the widespread belief that the Iraq war had prevented further attacks. Therefore, anything that reminds the public that we’re still in danger is, contrary to conventional wisdom, a big negative for Bush:

To the extent that clearly focusing on what they would do to deal with the actual terrorist threat undermines both parts of the Republican argument, while connecting public unhappiness with Iraq with residual concerns about terrorism, Democrats should hammer away on this subject every day. This administration has been a national security disaster. The “flypaper” has worn out, leaving us with a horrific mess in Iraq, an energized and growing jihadist threat, and a country more exposed than ever to terrorism. It’s time for a dramatically new direction.


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