Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Terrorist Attacks Under Bush?

Outside of presidential elections, I don’t typically do much politically-based blogging, but I recently read about an issue that I felt warranted a bit of attention from my sharp intellect, quick wit, and poignant rhetoric.

(Yes, that was a little joke. I do those every once in a while.)

Recently, a couple of high-profile Republicans, making the talk show rounds, have been repeating what seems to be a new party “talking point”: that there were no terrorist attacks during the Bush presidency, as there have been now during Obama’s presidency. The obvious point is that the country was safer under Republican control – a point that is clearly being made in light of the Congressional midterm elections set to take place later this year.

Now, I said only that it “seems” to be a talking point because I do not want to jump to a conclusion. It may not be an official talking point at all, and may just be that both Republicans in question simply made the same assertion independently.

In any case, the two figures are Rudy Giuliani, former NYC mayor and presidential candidate, and Dana Perino, former press secretary for George W. Bush.

Perino made the statement talking to Sean Hannity of Fox News after the Fort Hood shootings. Her comment was fairly straightforward: “We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”

Giuliani’s statement was similar, given to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: “We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We’ve had one under Obama.”

In case it is not already clear, the troublesome thing about these statements is that they are, quite obviously, not true. The worst terror attack in U.S. history occurred during the Bush administration – the 9/11 hijackings.

But they weren’t counting that, you might argue. Everything changed after 9/11, and obviously the context was about the War on Terror in the wake of 9/11. What they meant is there were no terrorist attacks on the U.S. after 9/11 under Bush.

Okay, fair enough.

Problem is, it’s still not true.

There were the anthrax attacks and the so-called “Shoe Bomber” attack of late 2001. In July of 2002 there was a terrorist shooting at the Los Angeles airport, carried out by a Muslim against a group of Jews. Two people were killed and several others were wounded. Later that year, the Beltway Sniper shootings occurred in Virginia, carried out by a Muslim convert who called his actions a “jihad” against America. Finally, a Muslim stating his desire to exact revenge for Muslim deaths around the world drove his vehicle into a group of pedestrians on the campus of UNC in 2006. Fortunately, no one was killed.

What’s perhaps even more troubling about the statements of Giuliani and Perino is that neither of their interviewers corrected them. Now, I don’t say that to suggest that Hannity and Stephanopoulos are both in on some big Republican conspiracy to rewrite history about terrorism under George Bush. But their lack of correction simply shows how easily a misstatement (whether intentional or not) can go undetected and therefore be presented to an audience as truthful.

How many Americans would hear the phrase “There were no terror attacks in the U.S. during the Bush administration after 9/11” and agree that it was true? It doesn’t take a Gallup poll to realize that the answer to that question would likely be in the millions. Memories are short, and history is easy to rewrite when pundits can make false statements on national television and not even be corrected by their interviewers.

Terrorism is a problem facing the world right now. It is a problem that the Bush administration had to tackle, and it is one that the Obama administration has to tackle. In my opinion, it’s underhanded enough to imply that Obama is to blame for Fort Hood or the Underpants Bomber, but it’s downright dirty tricks to suggest, untruthfully, that America saw no terrorism under George Bush, and use that to draw the conclusion that Obama has made America less safe.

It’s so dirty, in fact, that I might even go so far as to call it character assassination.

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