Better to be lucky than good?

Yes, in the more than eight years since the Sept. 11 attacks changed our country forever, terrorism has become political. There is no way to separate politics now from our debate about how to stay safe. But just because it's a fact doesn't mean it's not depressing.

The discussion of just what happened last weekend, and subsequently on Monday night, when Shahzad was apprehended, has done nothing to help us make progress on mitigating the terrorist threat. It has only served to make partisans feel better.
 
Note that in today's Washington Post, Republicans are criticizing Democrats for depending on luck, and there is even a quote from GOP pollster Whit Ayres talking up an opening for Republicans. "Democrats are always suspect on national security, and anything that makes them look weak on national security is an opportunity for Republicans."
 
The Miranda debate has gone around in circles — the administration claims reading Miranda rights to Shahzad worked because he kept talking; Republicans claim they shouldn't have been given even though the suspect is an American citizen. Where are we going with this?
 
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the incident showed that we got lucky but that "luck is not an effective strategy for fighting terrorism." And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) responded by saying, "They caught him. They caught him. They caught him. What's wrong with being lucky?"
 
Frankly, Shazhad could have been caught after killing hundreds on Saturday night, or not caught after killing hundreds. We did get lucky, and we can't count on future bombers to make bombs like Shazhad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did that fail to detonate properly. 
 
Democrats are wrong to count on luck, and Republicans are wrong to characterize the Democrats' only strategy on terrorism as luck. No president wants to see Americans killed, and this president is likely to see an attack succeed on his watch; it's likely only a matter of time. But it's likely to happen on the next Republican president's watch as well. Politicians know even better than we do that the enemy can't be contained.
 

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