Democrats have often been accused by conservatives of secretly wanting to lose the war in Iraq because it would benefit them politically. Given the difficulty in even defining the meaning of “win” and “lose” in the quagmire that is Iraq, it seems a rather specious charge.
But let’s turn the tables a bit. Are Republicans secretly hoping for another terrorist attack on the homeland? It’s a deliberately provocative question, and one that deserves some discussion.
Look at where Republicans find themselves in the summer of 2007. They’ve got a wildly unpopular president at historical lows in the polls, rejected by Americans across the political spectrum. As a direct result of his policies, especially in Iraq, the Republicans have lost control of both houses of Congress. Surveying the current political scene, most observers are predicting a Democratic tsunami in 2008, with the party taking back the White House and increasing their numbers in both the House and the Senate.
Republicans have always considered national security to be their strong suit. Although recent polls show that that perception is changing in favor of the Democrats. They believe that people trust them more than the Democrats to keep Americans safe. So any perceived threat, they reason, benefits Republicans politically. They also believe that the natural reaction in the face of a terrorist attack is to rally ’round the President.
The Bush administration, of course, has always played the terror card when it suited them. Terror alerts and uncovered terror plots seem to conveniently appear whenever Bush has some sort of political crisis that he needs us to avert our eyes from. Their apparent goal is to keep the American people in a perpetual state of fear, and in a state of mind that will compel them to support the President and his party. The unspoken message they want to send is, “Vote Republican or Die.” Rudy Giuliani has latched onto this theme and will attempt to ride it all the way to the White House.
But having cried wolf so often, this strategy may be losing its effectiveness. Recent statements by the administration and prominent Republicans suggest that they might actually welcome another terrorist attack as a way to rally the nation and cause people to run back to the Republican party.
Rick Santorum, the recently defeated Senator from Pennsylvania, had this to say during a July 7, 2007 interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show:
“…between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK.”
A few weeks ago, Dennis Milligan, the chairman of the Republican party in Arkansas and a strong Bush supporter, said this:
“At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”
Both Santorum and Milligan seem to be looking forward to another terror attack as the best way for the “naysayers” to “appreciate” President Bush. Couple that with Michael Chertoff’s recent “gut feeling” that an attack may happen this summer, and you have to wonder if they know something that we don’t.
And then there’s Stu Bykofsky, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, who wrote this week:
“One month from The Anniversary, I’m thinking another 9/11 would help America…The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda. Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again? If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America’s righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail. The unity brought by such an attack sadly won’t last forever. The first 9/11 proved that.”
Recently, I came across an alarming essay that began with these ominous words:
“Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran. Bush has put in place all the necessary measures for dictatorship in the form of ‘executive orders’ that are triggered whenever Bush declares a national emergency. Recent statements by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, former Republican senator Rick Santorum and others suggest that Americans might expect a series of staged, or false flag, ‘terrorist’ events in the near future….Alternatively, the administration could simply allow any real terrorist plot to proceed without hindrance.”
Of course, the interesting thing to note here is that the author is not some “left-wing loony.” Those words were written by Paul Craig Roberts, a conservative and the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is also considered to be the “father” of Reaganomics. The executive orders that he references include the recent July 17 order which allows the White House to, incredibly, seize the assets of anyone who ‘interferes’ with its Iraq policies. Roberts notes that “When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order], there’s no check to it. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule.”
He continued by writing this:
“Ask yourself: Would a government that has lied us into two wars and is working to lie us into an attack on Iran shrink from staging ‘terrorist’ attacks in order to remove opposition to its agenda? Only a diehard minority believes in the honesty and integrity of the Bush-Cheney administration and in the truthfulness of the corporate media.”
Such alarmist talk might seem to be over the top, and Roberts is probably at risk of being labeled “paranoid.” But like they say, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
But is the conventional wisdom right? Would Americans flock back to the Republicans and support Bush in the event of another attack? I’m not so sure. I think at one point (early on in Bush’s tenure) that may have been true, but Americans been through a lot, and may have finally wised up. I think most people would be more likely to have a reaction along the lines of, “Hey, Mr. President, I thought you said you would keep us safe!” before pulling the lever for the Democrats.
Do I believe that most Republicans are consciously looking forward to the day when their fellow Americans may die in another terrorist attack, as a way to possibly save the Republican party? No, I don’t. I’m not that cynical (yet). Do I believe that there are elements within the Republican party that wouldn’t necessarily, shall we say, be disappointed if such an attack were to occur? Almost certainly.