Just when I think the state of American political discourse cannot get any worse, it keeps dropping further. This time, I'm referring to recent dialogue about the US response to terrorism, and, primarily, Republicans' criticisms of President Obama's recent handling of matters.
Politicians keep making reckless, false remarks about terrorism and news organizations keep failing to hold them accountable. Meanwhile, the public doesn't seem to care much OR feels too detached and helpless about changing things.
First, Republicans aggressively attacked Obama's initial response to the Christmas Day incident aboard a commercial plane. They wanted him to say more and do more. I actually didn't find Obama's response that disturbing because I think it's more wise for our country to act as low-key as possible - rather than hysterical - after an attempt by terrorists. After all, the objective of terrorists is to cause the most hysteria, fear and distraction. Putting aside a debate about Obama's day-to-day handling of this from his Hawaii vacation, my point is that Republicans didn't hesitate - for one second - to jump all over what they saw as a "political opportunity" to attack the President. They didn't show regard for the sensitive nature of the matter. Even attempted acts of terrorism won't make certain Republicans refrain from their non-stop criticism of Obama.
Some of their criticism continued into this past week. Then, Obama, a few days ago, announced the findings of his Administration's review of the failed airplane bombing and outlined a list of specific changes that would be implemented to improve the country's response to possible terrorist activity. Obama acknowledged that the system had failed and needed improvement. I don't recall former President George W. Bush ever making the kind of strong, specific, reality-based statement about terrorism.
However, in the weeks before and days after Obama's announcement, we heard several remarks by other prominent Republicans, during television interviews, that reached a new "low."
Republican strategist Mary Matalin, who formerly worked for former VP Dick Cheney, in a Dec. 27, 2009 interview on CNN, remarked that the Obama administration had too frequently complained about what it inherited from the Bush administration. She said the Bush Administration "inherited the most tragic attack on our soil in our nation's history," and implied that the 9/11 attack was the result of mistakes by the Clinton administration.
A few weeks before Matalin's line, Dana Perino, the former Bush press secretary, in a Nov. 24, 2009 appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News television interview show, said "...we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's' term...."
Then, finally, yesterday, on Jan. 8, 2010, came former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's turn. Giuliani first said Obama should be "following the right things that Bush did" and went on to say that while Obama's announcement last week "turned the corner" in his understanding of terrorism, that Obama still had much improving to do. Then:
"We had no domestic attacks under Bush, " Giuliani said. "We've had one under Obama."
(Guiliani, later Friday, apologized and acknowledged he had misspoken by omitting the words "since 9/11." His earlier remark had also omitted mention of the failed attempt of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who, in December, 2001, was apprehended on a flight bound from Paris to Miami. In addition, Guiliani didn't mention anthrax attacks that occurred.).
It sounds like Republicans are stooping to an incredible, new low by creating this new line to use against President Obama. We should notice if it gets repeated.
Let's pause to consider the outrageous scope of this new "claim," or, attempt at propaganda by these three Republicans. That's what it is - propaganda. I guess, these three Republicans are telling us that 9/11 didn't really happen when it did. I guess they feel that we Americans are paying so little attention or we're so stupid that they can just manipulate a little change in language and create a new impression - a new "context" for 9/11. Pretty soon, they'll claim that Clinton shared responsbility for the US "having to" invade Iraq. This is all such crap, but, these days, in our current media environment, the truth doesn't seem to matter any more. The Republicans take advantage of that - in the ugliest ways.
Let's face it. This isn't really a new approach. Some Republicans have been in the habit of disseminating falsehoods like this in recent years. Remember all the many lies that comprised the Bush Administration's long propaganda campaign before the US invasion of Iraq? Between Sept. 11, 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bush Administration officials orchestrated the most extreme propaganda campaign I recall seeing in the US. They made one false statement after another for months and months. The US House and Senate went along. The public bought into it. Now, Iraq, the US and the whole world are worse off as a result of that crazy invasion.
The Bush Administration "politicized" its anti-terror efforts in a variety of ways in the years that followed, using its "war on terror" to justify changing laws and people's rights to privacy and other protections - and on and on. Then, there were occasions when, the Bush administration seemed to change the "terror alert levels" at times that, coincidentally seemed to benefit the President - like during the 2004 presidential campaign. So, Republicans are on the thinnest ice trying to criticize Obama's anti-terrorism efforts.
So, are we going to let a "new" line of propaganda be used again now? Won't any US Senator publicly challenge and demand a response to the kind of comments made by Mary Matalin? Why the hell should she or Dana Perino or Guiliani be allowed to get away with saying anything like they did? Matalin and Perino should publicly retract their remarks. Have they?
I believe the current crowd of Republicans, reactionaries and right-wing nuts will stoop to any new "lows" they choose to attack Obama and score political points --- even when it involves our safety, national security and matters for which they should be held to a higher standard of truth-telling. (Do you recall how Democrats usually went along - in a show of "unity" - with Bush's anti-terrorism efforts? How they, in fact, did refrain from criticizing him at sensitive moments relating to terrorism? It seems Republicans are employing different standards toward Obama)
Today, no one seems to keep track of who - among our highest public officials - and their supporters and critics - tell the truth and who do not. No one seems to be held accountable for what they say anymore. It's a climate that creates fertile ground for propaganda.
On the other hand, people can reject propaganda. The truth does matter. The 9/11 attack happened on George Bush's watch and his Administration was prepared to immediately use the incident as a springboard to go after Iraq and to radically redefine how we deal with terrorism and countries that sponsor it. That's what happened.
In the end, though, it is the people who have to make the truth matter more.