Threat of Terrorism Still Making People Stupid

When you're a partisan, you have a certain obligation to be, well, partisan. That means you have to put the things your side does in the best light and the things the other side does in the worst light. Their motives are always suspect while your are always pure, and if anything goes wrong it was obviously their fault, while if anything goes right they had nothing to do with it.

But just how far does this obligation extend? How far beyond the borders of logic and reason can you ride it? The unfortunate answer is, pretty darn far.

As you've heard, the administration ordered a number of embassies, mostly in the Middle East, closed for a few days because of some "chatter" relating to a potential al Qaeda attack. Republican Congressman Peter King said that this demonstrates that "Al Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11," which is kind of like saying that the fact that the Backstreet Boys are currently touring shows that they're even more popular than they were in the 1990s. And for some unfathomable reason, Rick Santorum was invited on Meet the Press on Sunday, and when he was asked about the significance of this potential attack, here's what he said:

Oh, I think it's a huge deal. And I think it's really a consequence of the policies of this administration. I mean, if you look at Benghazi and what happened there. We had an attack on our embassy. We've seen really nothing other than cover-ups. We haven't seen anything from this administration really go after the people who are responsible, or the network behind it. And I'm sure if you're looking at it from a terrorist perspective, you say, "Well, here's an administration that's pulling back, that's timid, and an opportunity to go after additional embassies." So this is to me a direct consequence from what we saw in Benghazi.

Oh for pete's sake. Now let's think about this for a moment. What actually happened here? Well, American intelligence agencies, through whatever combination of techniques they're employing, picked up information leading them to conclude that some kind of an attack or series of attacks was imminent. The government then decided to take action to make it more difficult for those attacks to take place, in a highly public way that no doubt had as one of its purposes letting the potential perpetrators know that we're on to them. Unless there is an attack, this would seem like exactly what we want the government to do. Success, right?

But Santorum wants us to believe that this is actually a terrible failure! Sure, we may have headed off the attack, but just the fact there are still terrorists in the world who would even contemplate committing acts of terrorism shows how weak Barack Obama is.

Now, perhaps one should be asking, "Why the hell would Meet the Press think anyone gives a crap what Rick Santorum thinks?" Is he really the best person they could get to represent the Republican view of things? A former senator and failed presidential candidate, widely acknowledged to be one of the most repellent characters in American politics in the last couple of decades? What was the producers' meeting like that week? "You know who we should try to book? Rick Santorum! He's terrific! And such an important and influential voice!" "Ooh, great idea, Biff—get on it!"

Back on Earth, when you identify a possible terrorist attack and take steps to prevent it, that's a good thing, even if there's a Democrat in the White House. But I wonder what your average middle-of-the-road voter thinks when she hears stuff like this. Is she turned off by it? Does it not really bother her, or make even the tiniest difference in how she looks at the parties and how she might vote next time around? Now imagine if Rick Santorum had said, "This is certainly serious, but let's give credit where it's due—if what we're hearing is accurate, we should commend the intelligence analysts for locating this threat, and the Obama administration did the right thing by closing the embassies as a precaution." People watching would have said, "Wow, maybe Santorum is a more thoughtful, reasonable guy than I thought."

But hey, it isn't just Republicans! Here's Candy Crowley asking Lindsey Graham, "Since the mission of terrorists is to terrorize, in some sense do you feel as if they’ve already won?" Because we temporarily closed some embassies! Of all the reactions to the threat of terrorism you could come up with, that's about the least terrorized you could imagine. Something about this topic seems to turn so many people into idiots.

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