Frank Luntz chatted with Fox’s Neil Cavuto the other day about the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Republican pollster briefly touched on whether the anniversary was a “positive” or a “negative.”
“You are correct, Neil. We do prioritize the economy first. And those presidential candidates who only talk about the economy without national security — they’re not going to connect to a lot of voters.
“But in the end, it is about who we are as a country and who we are as a people. I have to tell you, this essence of America being safe and secure is so important to our culture. It is important to American exceptional. It plays into our psyche.
“And when you don’t — I don’t think that this date that’s coming up in 48 hours — I actually think this is a negative, not a positive. Yes, it allows us to look back and say we haven’t been hit. Yes, it allows us to appreciate George Bush and Dick Cheney for keeping us safe.
“But in this end, it reminds us that we are vulnerable and that hurts our confidence.”
I’ll gladly leave it to others to evaluate the effect of the anniversary on the national psyche, but the notion that the day offers us an opportunity to “appreciate” the previous administration “for keeping us safe” strikes me as woefully misguided.
Indeed, such a claim should come with a series of pretty important caveats. Except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the former president’s record on counter-terrorism was awesome.
A variety of words come to mind when it comes to responses to the Bush/Cheney record, but “appreciation” isn’t one of them.
As Matt Yglesias noted a while back, “The overwhelming majority of Americans to ever be killed by foreign terrorists were killed during Bush’s presidency. And even if you give him a pass on 9/11 itself it’s still the case that his conduct of the ‘war on terror’ led to the deaths of thousands more Americans.”
I realize Frank Luntz gets paid very well to identify how best to mislead and manipulate public perceptions, but this tired “keeping us safe” talking point is easily dismissed by anyone who actually remembers the Bush era.