When I got back from Flathead Lake this Sunday and fired up my computer, a friend had emailed me this piece from the New York Times' Week in Review section that discusses the political/security implications of the horrible terrorist bombing in London. There are two particularly troubling dynamics laid out in the story: First, Democrats seem as yet unwilling to give voice to the very serious concerns these attacks raise about America's current national security policy. Second, Republicans seem willing to brazenly use this awful tragedy in an effort to pump up President Bush's poll numbers. The result will leave America far less safe than we should be.
The story leads off by quoting a blog entry I did about how the attacks call into question President Bush's whole argument that the war in Iraq means that there is a smaller terrorist threat on America's homeland. The blog post also questioned why, in the wake of 9/11, the President opted to spend more than $300 billion on a war in Iraq, while underfunding homeland security?
These are, of course, legitimate and important questions, especially as our country and England move forward in trying to prevent future attacks. Unfortunately, the Times piece says "elected Democrats are unlikely to cite the London bombings to fault the White House" right now on its national security policy, for fear of seeming too political. That is sad, and frightening.
It should be obvious that questions about misguided national security decisions after a tragic attack aren't political at all - they are substantive and absolutely necessary to securing this country and our allies. If, after an attack, there is no opposition party willing to ask very relevant questions about whether our country is making the right security decisions, how can we ever expect any changes in policy that might make us more safe and might prevent future attacks?
This Democratic cowering, which I wrote about on Friday, is coming at the very same time Republicans are doing everything they can to once again politicize national security, just as they did before the 2002 and 2004 elections. As the Times notes, GOP operatives are out there saying "the bombings will only serve to remind Americans why they returned the president to the White House." This willingness to exploit a tragedy is being legitimated by the likes of Brit Hume and others on Fox News. The right-wing knows that in the absence of Democrats asking serious substantive questions, they can try to turn the horrible tragedy in London into a brazen political opportunity for President Bush, without so much of a peep of criticism, and without anyone asking the substantive national security questions that these attacks raise.
It is true that the Times piece mentions that Democrats are going to raise questions about the Bush administration's negligent underfunding of transit security here in America - and those questions will be a positive step.
But in light of this attack and the Bush administration's CIA director admitting the Iraq War is helping the terrorists, Democrats need to start fundamentally challenging this administration on its entire national security strategy - not just nipping around the edges, and not retreating in fear as they have recently.
This is important not because of any political ramifications for Democrats, but because it is good policy. An America without an opposition party challenging those in power to re-evaluate a clearly dangerous and failing national security strategy is an America that is not doing its best to secure its homefront. And that should be unacceptable to all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.