A Dream Before the Days of Fire: Progressive Disaster-Preparedness

11/15/2005 11:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As we watch the President's falling poll numbers and count the Republican scandals, I can't help but wonder if we'll look back after the next terror strike and remember this as a time of innocence. Scooter Libby ... DeLay on trial ... The President's drinking ... Will any of this matter if a dirty bomb hits Manhattan -- or Boston, or Dallas? Are we all just sleepwalking in a dream before the days of fire? Progressives need a "disaster preparedness plan," for the sake of our future and our freedom.

Republicans -- at least some of them -- have black-hearted hopes for political fallout should another strike occur, as Bob Cesca reported here. Those reports should surprise absolutely no one. Even the foolishness of putting such openly cynical thoughts on paper isn't a surprise anymore.

What is surprising is the notion that anyone could still consider national security an area of strength for the GOP. The only reason that idea's still plausible to anyone is that Democrats have left a leadership vacuum in the security arena.

The ongoing negligence and incompetence this Administration is showing toward the prevention of future terrorist attacks -- including nuclear strikes -- is well-documented. Should another tragedy occur, there will be plenty of new "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US" items to point to, like the 9/11 Commission's recent finding of "insufficient progress" in the war on terror.

While it's true that Bin Ladin and Bush have each benefited from their oddly symbiotic relationship, Republicans are deluded if they think another attack will win back the credibility and political momentum they have lost. Katrina and Scooter Libby have seen to that. Unfortunately for Democrats, their cause will also be set back -- perhaps drastically -- by even harsher conflation of disagreement with treason.

By now, the Democrats might have been in a position to reassure the country in a future time of crisis, and to offer an alternative for real leadership on national security -- that is, had they been serious and organized about developing a response to the terror threat. There are a number of ways Democrats can truly demonstrate their ability to protect our security, by offering clearer and smarter alternatives to the current ideology-driven, old-style war against this new kind of enemy. That's a better way to win moderates than false posturing over Iraq.

But there's more at stake than partisan politics. We could face the worst of all possible outcomes should another devastating attack take place. The country today is fractured along fault lines far deeper than those that existed in 2001. Another attack would split the country along those lines in ways that are almost unimaginable. Conservatives would attack dissent as never before, while the Administration would be as likely as ever to make questionable statements regarding national security issues. The result could well be crisis to our civil liberties the likes of which we have never seen before -- even in the days of McCarthyism.

Progressives -- including bloggers and dissidents of all stripes -- need to have a disaster-preparedness plan in place. The content and nature of that plan should be under discussion now, and suggestions for it -- together with some thoughts about Democrats and national security -- will be the subject of a future post. I hope that others will weigh in on the topic.

The key question, however, is this one: How can progressives and other dissidents best serve the national interest, especially national security, before and during a time of emergency?

Our safety has to come first -- but, as recent events have shown, security is everyone's responsibility. Sadly, we can't entrust the current leadership to handle it in a non-political way. But the progressive response can't be partisan, either. We need to weigh the issues of freedom vs. responsibility, unity vs. diversity, patriotism vs. progress -- and we need to weigh them now: before terror strikes again.