Monday, October 04, 2010

Freedom of Speech, Temporarily Approved

Never let it be said that I can't say anything good about President Barack Obama.

Just one month before the election and there are ominous warnings of imminent terrorist attacks. What a relief it is to have Obama in charge!

To be clear, if anything actually happens, God forbid, I'm not expecting any extraordinary displays of leadership or strategic competence from the man. Nothing in his record indicates an aptitude for this. We'll be lucky if he performs as well as George W. Bush. Yet I'm glad he's there. Because now threats of terrorism can be accepted threats of terrorism and acted on appropriately.

Before the Age of Obama, you may recall, threats of terrorism had to have an asterisk next to them. Government officials and journalists routinely uestioned whether or not the reports were legitimate or the product of someone more sinister than terrorists.

For example, from October 2004, another time of terrorist threats before an election, the typical reaction from the Washington Post (excerpts):

Some Democrats are suspicious of the timing of the announcements, noting that warnings about an election-season threat came on April 19, when Bush was close to his low in the polls; on Aug. 1, right after the Democratic National Convention; and last week, as the president's post-National Republican Convention bounce ebbed.

In a statement last week, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned that it is possible for terrorism response plans created in the name of election security to discourage voting and "become a thinly veiled partisan tactic to tilt the elections."

You have to admire Democrats for their focus, they never take their eye off the real enemy.

This scurrilous accusation, Republicans playing games with national security to win elections, is not ancient history. These "concerns" were ginned up as recently as February of this year. Criticisms of the Democrats handling of terrorist prosecutions brought this alert from the New York Times:

An election is coming, so the Republicans are trying to scare Americans by making it appear as if the Democrats don’t care about catching or punishing terrorists.

It's nonsense, of course, but effective. The be-very-afraid approach helped former President George W. Bush ram laws through Congress that chipped away at Americans’ rights. He used it to get re-elected in 2004. Now the Republicans are playing the fear card for the fall elections.

Of course, this is another variation of the censorship through shaming tactic. Democrats attempting to declare the topic as out of bounds for discussion, especially during an election. This is another issue on which the Democrats are losing the argument. A majority of the American people generally see them as weaker in terms of handling terrorism and national security, so those issues cannot be allowed to be taken into consideration by voters.

As Lori Sturdevant decreed yesterday in the Star Tribune, gun rights, gay marriage, and abortion are sideshows and tired tangential issues, not worthy of discussion for the 2010 election. But, thanks to Barack Obama in office, it looks like we're able to threats of terrorism seriously. At least for now.