If any Republican is elected president Ã¢â‚¬â€ and I think obviously I would be the best at this Ã¢â‚¬â€ we will remain on offense and will anticipate what [the terrorists] will do and try to stop them before they do it. …
[America will ultimately win the war on terror no matter which party wins the presidency.] But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have? If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer.
I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense. We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense. …
The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.
Obama’s response? “America is united. We know we can win this war based on shared purpose, not the same divisive politics that question your patriotism if you dare to question failed policies that have made us less secure.”
Oh, good f***ing grief.
Okay, look. As I made clear on Monday, I don’t approve of attacking politicians’ patriotism or saying they “don’t support the troops” because of honest policy disagreements. But this is different. Will someone please point me to where exactly Giuliani questioned anyone’s patriotism?
It seems to me, Giuliani is expressing an honest opinion about policy, not calling the Democrats unpatriotic or claiming they disagree with the war’s “shared purpose.” He’s talking about method, not purpose. He is simply saying that he believes Republican policies (and in particular, his policies) will keep us safer against terrorists than Democratic policies will. How is that objectionable? I mean, it might be wrong as a substantive matter, but how can the topic itself be off-limits for discussion?!?
Democrats routinely say that President Bush’s policies have “made America less safe.” Obama himself said it in the same breath that he was condemning Giuliani (”policies that have made us less secure”), and Hillary Clinton made a similar statement in her response to Rudy: “The plain truth is that this Administration has done too little to protect our ports, make our mass transit safer, and protect our cities. They have isolated us in the world and have let Al Qaeda regroup. The next President is going to be left with these problems and will have to do what it takes to make us safer.”
Whether or not these opinions are correct, they’re certainly legitimate ones, well within the realm of acceptable political discourse, right? Well, if Bush’s policies have made America unsafe, it follows logically that maintaining Bush’s policies will continue to make America unsafe. In other words, the Democrats are saying that electing a Republican will make America less safe. For the love all that is holy, HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT from a Republican arguing that electing a Democrat will make America less safe???
The Democrats have every right to argue that the Republicans have made America unsafe and vulnerable with their ineffective policies, whereas the Dems will adopt a new course that will make us safer and stronger. And the Republicans have every right to argue the contrary position. In fact, it is essential that we have precisely this argument! Both sides need to make the case to the American people, “we have the proper strategy for this war; we will keep you safe.” If we don’t have that discussion, how can the electorate possibly make an informed choice?
This reflexive tendency to play the victim card — “how dare you question our patriotism! how dare you call us weak! how dare you talk about things that involve ‘fear’!” — is one of the major things that has driven me away from the Democrats in recent years. As a rhetorical tactic, it’s dishonest and hypocritical. More importantly, it distracts us from a very, very important discussion about the future of our country and the direction of this war. It’s also a strategic disaster, because it muddies the waters and deadens the outrage when the Republicans commit real rhetorical sins, like claiming that honest statements of principled opposition to the “surge” are somehow unpatriotic or off-limits. The Democrats are the Party That Cried Wolf in this regard: they scream “patriotism!” or “politics of fear!” so often that people are less likely to pay attention when they have a real point, and thus the Republicans can actually get away with more. Obama’s reaction is Karl Rove’s wet dream. All the moreso because an awful lot of voters agree with Giuliani on this point, and the Democrats are never going to change their minds simply by saying, “How dare you think that!!!”
Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats need to wake up and realize they cannot declare their foreign policy ideas off-limits to criticism. These are legitimate questions Giuliani is driving at, and Obama & co. need to answer them, not disingenuously deflect them. If Obama thinks Giuliani is wrong to characterize the Dems’ position on Iraq as “waving the white flag,” he needs to explain why that’s wrong, and what exactly the Dems’ position is. If Obama thinks the elimination of the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance and so forth will be costless in the war on terror, he needs to explain why and how that can be the case. Or, if he acknowledges that there are costs, but he believes the benefits are worth the costs, he needs to explain that and to delineate the costs and benefits — in other words, he needs to justify his position. If Obama disagrees with Giuliani’s assertion that “the Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us,” then he needs to outline an anti-terror strategy which demonstrates that he does, in fact, understand the war’s nature and scope. Simply put, he needs to rebut the substance of Giuliani’s remarks, not simply accuse Giuliani of “playing the politics of fear” and “questioning his patriotism” when Giuliani is doing nothing of the sort.
UPDATE: It’s easy to see why the Irrational Far Left hates The New Republic with a passion only rivaled by their hatred for Joe Lieberman. TNR has writers who actually understand basic common-sense ideas like this one. Isaac Chotiner quotes Obama’s description of Bush’s “failed policies that have made us less secure” and writes:
It’s almost as if Obama is saying America would be safer without Republican policies!
Terrorism is an important issue, and politicians can and should be arguing about which/whose strategies will keep America more secure. Every time Republicans mention how much more they “get” terrorism than the Democrats, well, they may be wrong, but they are by no means out of bounds. Democrats have been saying for a good four years now that Iraq has made America less safe. This is the debate we should be having.
Exactly. And I literally don’t understand how anyone can not understand that. Well, any sane, rational, reasonably intelligent person, at least. There’s a reason I use so many question marks in my post above — I am utterly incredulous that anyone with any pretention to logical faculties could possibly think Obama is right about this.