The Plank

Does The Gop Want A Terrorist Attack?


Matt Yglesias writes:

Charlie Black's statement that "certainly it would be a big advantage
to" John McCain for American civilians to be slaughtered by
international terrorists helps bring to the surface the central paradox
of our times. How reasonable is it to trust that a political movement
will bring safety to the country when they themselves believe
that doing so would ill-serve their interests? Insofar as
representative democracy works as a system of government, the general
idea is that politicians expect to be rewarded for good stuff happening
and punished for bad stuff happening, and thus make some effort to try
to see that good stuff rather than bad stuff happens. The post-9/11 GOP
upends that relationship, and you repeatedly see instances of
conservatives openly yearning for disaster to strike on the theory that
that'll show the liberals or boost Republican electoral fortunes.

starters, Black was asked about the effect of a terrorist attack, and
he answered honestly (Matt is not disputing that an attack would help
the GOP). Second, there have not been any terrorist attacks in the
United States in almost seven years! This "paradox" would be slightly
more worrisome if America had been continually attacked, and the GOP seemed to be
enjoying the ensuing wave of popularity. Moreover, who are these
conservatives who are "yearning for disaster?" I can't think of any
examples off the top of my head--and surely Matt does not think McCain
or Bush wants to see Americans die. Finally, anecdotal evidence would
suggest that some liberals are not all that upset about a poor economy
in an election year. Does this make them bad people? I think not. And
surely this was true with certain conservatives in 2000, who hyped bad
economic news. Both sides make calculations and may sometimes
secretly or mischeviously wish for bad things in exchange for what they perceive to be the greater
good at some point down the road. (And no, I don't think this
contradicts my previous point about McCain hoping for a terrorist
attack: It's easier to wish for something like weak employment figures than
it is to wish for the death of your fellow citizens).

--Isaac Chotiner

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