Nagourney recycles security spin
Adam Nagourney claims that this week's foiled hijacking plot reinforces the idea that Republicans are stronger on security than Democrats:
The developments played neatly into the White House-led effort, after Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, lost on Tuesday to an antiwar primary challenger, to remind voters of the threats facing the nation and to cast Democrats as timid on national defense. [NYT]
This argument is absurd. I don't understand how anyone can repeat it with a straight face. Democrats and Republicans on national security is the Republicans' kooky idea that invading and occupying distant countries will really show those Al Qaeda sleeper cells in London and San Francisco. This time, the would-be bombers were British and they were caught by conventional police work. Even Dick Cheney doesn't think we should invade Great Britain to stop terrorism. (Update: Anonymous Liberal fleshes out this line of argument beautifully.)
Withdrawing from Iraq will help us combat real terrorism, you know, the kind voters actually care about--small groups of semi-autonomous stateless radicals blowing up planes and subways in the Western world.
The Bush administration wants to expand the term "terrorism" to encompass all diplomatic challenges, and all national security issues. When the Republicans are allowed to redefine national security as one big counter-terrorism operation, they can accuse anyone who challenges their tactics of being soft on terrorism.
The Republicans couldn't run counter-terrorism and military conquest together if it weren't for uncritical political journalists like Adam Nagourney.
Nagourney is a prime example of a particularly shallow and self-indulgent school of political journalism. Instead of digging for new facts, he prefers to spin sociological theories based on the talking points he's given.
Nagourney reports primarily on perceptions and spins, as if he were reviewing marketing campaigns for hand lotion or dish detergent. Nagourney writes as if this studied detachment absolves makes the truth irrelevant.
Like any marketing analyst, Nagourney's bedrock assumption that voters are influenced by narratives independently of facts or logic. Maybe he's right. But if that's what Nagourney thinks, doesn't he feel any responsibility to sound alarm? To warn the public that someone is trying to trick them? Evidently not. Marketing analysts aren't paid to care about the truth. They have no responsibilities beyond predicting what will. Political journalists, on the other hand, are supposed to inform the public.
Nagourney thinks he's sized up the poor dumb voters and calculated that they will fall for the Republican spin, yet again. Later in the column he lets on that he knows that the Republicans are turning a foiled terrorist plot into a cheap publicity stunt:
The White House had been aware for weeks that Britain was moving to shut down this plot. White House officials said that Mr. Cheney was kept abreast of the plot and the investigation, but that his comments on Wednesday, in a rare teleconference with news service reporters, were simply in reaction to what they said was an extraordinary political event, the defeat of a sitting senator.
A senior White House official on Air Force One, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the notion that there was anything wrong with these kinds of issues being mixed up in a political campaign.
“The issue is going to be discussed in the fall,” this official said. “Are you saying if the Democrats talk about the war, we shouldn’t? We will talk about the war, and we will talk about the consequences of the policies advocated by the Democrats.” [NYT]
Nagourney doesn't seem to care that he's an accessory to deception.