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
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
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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