In Pissing In The Well, published on Saturday, August 25, 2007, we supported Hillary discussing potential terror alerts and attacks. We wrote:
We wish that Kerry would have talked about the many “terror alerts” well before the 2004 election. We wish that Kerry had prepared the American people for the fear they would feel in case of a Bin Laden tape just before the election. We wish that Kerry has “pissed in the well” so that Ripublicans could not have used fear and “national security” arguments against him. We are sure Kerry wishes he had spoken out clearly and repeatedly about fear and terror threats and alerts.
Polls show the Democrats have closed the “national security” gap between Ripublicans and Democrats. Democrats cannot allow that national security gap to return. Democrats cannot hide from the “terror” issue nor from Ripublican exploitation of fear. Hillary is taking the fear out of the issue by talking about it.
The influential and very right wing New Hampshire Union Leader today agrees substantially with us that this issue should be absolutely discussed.
LAST THURSDAY Sen. Hillary Clinton told the crowd gathered at the home of Gary and Carol Sobelson of Concord that if terrorists attacked the United States before the election “that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world.”
She then let the bomb drop, saying “I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that.”
When her comments hit the news, other Democratic candidates went nuts, accusing her of politicizing terrorism. Left-wing bloggers accused her of stealing a page from Karl Rove’s playbook.
But what’s the offense? Clinton is running for President. The President’s first priority is protecting the country. She says she’d be better at it, and better at beating a Republican on that issue, than her Democratic rivals would be. Good! By all means, let’s debate that!
If the other Democratic candidates don’t think they’d do a better job than Clinton would, then why are they running? If they do think so, they should make the case. We are at war. Being able to explain how you would make the country safer should be each candidate’s top priority, not a subject considered too delicate to discuss.
On August 27, 2007, the intelligent (and maligned by the media as well as by Naderites in the 2000 race when she advised the very capable and good Al Gore) Naomi Wolf substantially agrees with us as well in almost word for word fashion. Naomi Wolf joins us in decrying the attacks on Hillary as well as the stupidity of the Naderite Big Blogs.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is getting a pounding — from liberal blogs and her Democratic rivals for the presidency — because she had the temerity to warn voters that a possible terrorist attack before the election might strengthen the Republicans’ hand. Chris Dodd called the comment “tasteless” and liberal bloggers are savaging her for, in their view, caving to the Republican framing of the terror issue.
These critics are being extraordinarily historically naive. If all Mrs. Clinton meant was that a genuine terror attack would empower Republicans, then sure — under current social consensus, her comment is in poor taste. (Though this notion — that examining the possible domestic fallout of terror attacks is vulgar, or unpatriotic, is one of those quasi-Victorian conventions that does not serve the vigorous debate needed in a time of crisis). But if Mrs. Clinton is also trying to warn voters about something even more difficult for us to talk about, then she is absolutely right — even brave — and her critics are frighteningly ill-informed of the past.
Here is Naomi’s version of Pissing In The Well. To us it is clear that it is a Ripublican tactic to exploit terror alerts and attacks to gain political benefit. Naderite Big Blogs rather attack Hillary and Democrats:
Mrs. Clinton is right to caution voters to consider the domestic outcome of a possible terror-related event before the election — if you factor into her caution this taboo subtext: if the terror scare in question is exaggerated, or even manufactured, to serve a domestic political purpose.
Naomi Wolf is as indelicate as we were in Pissing in the Well:
Even as I write those words, I understand I am breaching a major social taboo of our particular time and place. There is a general polite consensus right now that maintains two no-debate areas: 1) you are not, if you are a serious person, allowed to note in public that it is possible that this White House — or any U.S. leader ever — might conceivably distort or hype the terror threat for political purposes (though plenty of serious people discuss this possibility in private); and 2) if you are a serious person, you are not allowed to suggest in public that it is remotely possible that in America elections could possibly be deliberately thrown off course any more directly than, say, the vote recount of 2000.
Get the smelling salts – stolen elections and politically inspired terror threats actually discussed – Naderites will faint. Naderites do not want the 2000 elections discussed, nor terror alerts as a political ploy, nor for that matter, the very concept of terror. Naderites do not like being reminded that Bush occupies the White House because of them (they blame “Al Bore” for not doing what they demanded he do). Naderites do not like discussing “terror” because it ‘buys into a frame’. Naderites will stuff their pockets with Ripublican cash in order to attack Democrats.
Sadly, these two current taboos fly in the face of history — both of the history of weakening democracies overseas and the history of our own nation.
It is standard practice for corrupt leaders who are seeking a certain political outcome to hype or manipulate a terror threat — or a threat of violent domestic subversion. While sometimes the threat is manufactured, frequently the hyped threat is based on a real danger.
Stalin warned of “sleepers” — covert agents of capitalism who would rise up at a signal and wreak mayhem arming peaceful Soviet citizens — an invented threat. But General Augusto Pinochet secured his coup in Chile in 1973 by elaborating upon a genuine threat: citizens were told that armed Unidad Popular insurgents, who were real, were planning a terror attack — a mass assassination of national leaders — a charge which was not real. He even showed their purported arms caches neatly lined up on TV and released, to the horror of Chileans, faked documents planning the alleged attack — the sinisterly named “Plan Z.” Similar tactics have been duplicated by corrupt leaders in many contexts worldwide.
Naomi Wolf in her article provides a history of how in the past the United States has hyped threats for political purposes. From the Sedition Act of 1798, Wilson’s Committee on Public Information to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the red-baiting of the McCarthy era through the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Naomi Wolf gives us a valuable history lesson. (Don’t forget yellowcake and the selling of the Iraq War, Naomi warns.)
Finally, I am sorry to say, there is the fact that, historically, when leaders are seeking to close down an open society, the months leading up to an election are traditionally the most unstable time — the period most likely to see reports of a frightening purported threat “just-foiled,” an apparent awful breach “just-averted,” or even a dramatic actual provocation — which requires, then, a strong hand to restore “public order.” Mrs. Clinton pointed out that even though it is a “horrible prospect,” sometime you have to ask “What if?”
A call to discuss our fears as a Pissing In the Well strategy which arms voters with knowledge – the only way to fight fear and emotional irrationality:
At the conclusion of my argument about the closing down of our democracy in The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, there is a series of `What ifs?’ positing various scenarios, based on the historical record about closing societies, that could realistically play out — yes, even here in America — in the run-up to the election. To put it mildly: You want to know and think about the history of such scenarios in advance, since one quality such tactics depend upon is the element of surprise.
Let’s also compare the way this White House talks about the terror threat with the way other societies that have decades-long experience with terrorist attacks do. And let’s use our common sense. Anyone who has ever lived in Israel — a country where, since its very birth, sophisticated terrorists have been targeting the civilian population day and night — knows that you NEVER get the equivalent of broad-anxiety-inducing alerts in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem like the “red alert” or “orange alert” system here at home. At the most, in Israel, you get practical, low-key, usable information from the state — for example, “avoid the Machaneh Yehudah marketplace this Friday afternoon” — no matter who is in power. Israelis, consequently, experience, on the day-to-day level, the possibility of terror attacks as a specific, real danger — but not as a state-produced existential condition, a matrix of helpless fear. (Indeed, avoiding national fear from terror attacks is a point of pride in Israel that transcends party lines).
What Hillary is doing is not only good, it is necessary.
Finally, if this administration did not have a seven-year track record of violating other major democratic principles that stand in its way, it would be easier to dismiss the need for a warning of this kind.
Is it irrational to consider the possibility of a hyped threat or even a provocation before the election? It is, at this point, irrational to refuse to do so. If this White House had no actual major record of hyping a threat — if the U.S. had no record of inflating various fears for political ends — and if weakening democracies worldwide had no record of manipulating terror narratives to drive certain outcomes, it would indeed be illogical — even paranoid — to worry about a possible hyped threat or provocation that is politically driven.
But given the current administration’s record of lying to Congress, the American people and the UN about such threats; given that it used fake documents to do so; given that it has often splashed out widely-reported terror charges that then vanish or subside during actual trials (the course corrections of which are seldom as widely reported); given our own nation’s history of not being immune to the temptations on the part of leaders of using fear to drive a political outcome — is it not, rather, almost criminally naive to REFUSE even to consider the possibility of a hyped threat or provocation close to the election?
Hillary’s opponents will cower. Naderite Big Blogs will continue to bamboozle.
Hillary, will continue to fight fear. Hillary is ready to lead.