• In security matters, Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus.

    Are Democrats soft on terror

    Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger on why President Obama and fellow Democrats are soft on terror. Photo credit: Bloomberg News.

    The day after Donald Trump accused Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of refusing to say “radical Islamic terrorism,” President Obama called Mr. Trump’s charge a “distraction” from fighting terrorism. Possibly so, but it wasn’t the only distraction.

    Within hours of Omar Mateen verbally dedicating his slaughter of 49 people to Islamic State, terrorism got drowned out by an outpouring of other subjects.

    Here, for example, is the New York Times editorializing on the “many factors” that caused the Orlando massacre: “a vicious and virulent homophobia; a failure to identify and intercept those with histories of domestic abuse or threats of violence; a radicalized strain of Islam . . . .” The Times editors then added to this list “one other factor,” which of course is “easy access to guns.”

    Hard as it may be to focus, the subject this week is, once again, just terrorism. Back in February after the New Hampshire presidential primaries, something in the exit polls caught my eye. It was that of the four “most important” issues facing the country, Democratic voters put terrorism fourth, at 10%. For Granite State Republicans it was 23%.

    At the time, the 10% figure struck me mainly as an intriguing result from a small state early in the primary season. Still, the terrorist attack in San Bernardino had just occurred in December and the horrific Paris massacres a month before.

    But that pattern—Democrats ranking terrorism fourth at 10%—held throughout the 2016 primary season. Even in military-minded South Carolina, terrorism registered at 10% with Democrats. For South Carolina Republicans, terrorism was the top issue at 32%.

    In April, a study by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations of the primaries’ exit polls noticed the phenomenon: “Terrorism has been named as the top issue on average by one in ten (Democratic) voters, far behind the economy/jobs, income inequality, and health care.”

    Does this mean Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus? Yes it does, and the Democrats know it.

    A Wednesday Washington Post article titled “A Fight Over Nation’s Values” said: “Both Clinton and Obama were eager to shift the focus away from terrorism and the battle against Islamic State, an area of relative weakness for Democrats.”

    The article itself was about an effort by Democrats to transfer the post-Orlando political conversation to Donald Trump’s “values.”

    Donald Trump can certainly tweet for himself about his values. But Islamic State and its horrors, which do include San Bernardino and Orlando, began and metastasized while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton presided over national security. Voters may reasonably ask themselves in November: Can the post-Obama Democrats be trusted to do what needs to be done to shut down you-know-who in their homicidal havens across the Middle East? Put differently, why is fighting terrorism recognized as “an area of relative weakness for Democrats”?

    To the last man and woman, Democrats would go ballistic, if one may use that word, at the notion they are “soft” on terrorism, even if they’ve created a microagression-free vocabulary for the subject.

    A less tendentious reading of the exit polls, they’d say, is that nearly all Democrats think terrorism is a problem, but most believe domestic concerns, such as income inequality, deserve more attention. They’d say the differences between the two parties, or between conservatives and progressives, is a matter of degree and not common concern.

    I don’t think that’s true. The differences of degree are large, big enough to create significant margins of risk for the American public’s safety.

    That difference is reflected not just in attitudinal preferences, but in policy results across a broad spectrum of real-world security matters, both domestic and international.

    After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Patriot Act with virtual unanimity, presumably in recognition that the nation’s security apparatus was inadequate for the nature of this new threat.

    The left argued that liberal Democrats voted for it because of post-9/11 “panic.” Soon, Democrats were legislating or filing lawsuits to pare back the Patriot Act’s provisions. The law’s title itself became a shorthand derision of then-President George W. Bush.

    The experience with the Patriot Act, however, tracks with the divide on virtually every security issue: the many lawsuits to constrain the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the battles over the National Security Agency, litigation to end “stop-and-frisk” policing or the endless tensions over the Fourth Amendment and police investigations.

    There are indeed serious constitutional issues raised by these disputes, but Democrats always end up on the same side of any policy affecting domestic or national security—conveying unmistakably that they find these functions morally distasteful, rather than morally necessary.

    Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama told the Air Force Academy’s graduating cadets he had “put aside 50 years of failed policies” by using “diplomacy, not war.” That Air Force commencement was the 10% mind-set reflected in those exit polls. Now Hillary Clinton is wrapping herself in the Obama foreign policy. For the security threats that lie ahead, it still won’t be enough.

    Write to henninger@wsj.com


    Posted by Dana West @ 5:51 am for Candidates, Issues, National politics |

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