Newsweek’s latest issue features an article by managing editor Daniel Klaidman that blatantly associates Republican criticism of the Obama administration with terrorism. Its title in the table of contents is "Terror Begins at Home: The GOP’s Scare Tactics." Inside the magazine, the headline is "Terror Begins at Home: Fearmongering Politicians Are Scoring Cheap Political Points at the Expense of the American People."
In the magazine, the article is illustrated with a blurry drawing of male underwear. Online, its lead image is a finger-pointing photo of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).
Is there an article in Newsweek that isn’t an editorial? Klaidman was firing rhetorical salvos at Republicans and their "ritualistic hazing" of liberals from the very first sentence:
Jostling before the midterms has begun, and so too has the GOP's ritualistic hazing of Democrats on national security. At every turn Republicans are hammering the Obama administration for "capitulating" in the fight against terrorism. But their macho rhetoric actually sends a message of weakness: we can't try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the same civilian courts that have convicted dozens of other international terrorists because Al Qaeda might attack New York. (When since 9/11 has New York not been a target of Al Qaeda?) Our criminal-justice system can't deal with a failed underwear bomber. The GOP assault may be smart politics, but in the long run it damages U.S. security by undermining our confidence and resiliency in the face of certain attacks to come.
Does Klaidman believe that the tough criticism of the Bush administration by the Democrats (not to mention the media) might have felt like "ritualistic hazing" to them? Even if Klaidman might have editorialized that it should be called "holding the government accountable"?
But Klaidman’s complete deference to the Obama administration really came through when he argued that the president’s long delay in commenting on the Christmas Day bombing attempt – long after years of the left mocking Bush reading "My Pet Goat" for a few minutes on 9/11 – was the essence of anti-terrorist wisdom:
By contrast, much of the current administration's antiterror policy seems aimed at strengthening the American spirit in the face of a diffuse but determined enemy. After Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, President Obama waited 72 hours before appearing in front of the cameras to make a statement. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) immediately cruised the cable circuit lambasting Obama for his lapse in "leadership" in the wake of what he claimed could have been "one of the greatest tragedies in the history of our country." The president should have stepped forward "to give a sense of confidence to the country." But it was precisely the president's deliberate restraint that conveyed confidence, not King's hysterical overreaction. When Obama did address the public, his response was measured and proportionate. "This incident," he said, "demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist."
This was transparent spin in the face of government failure to prevent the aspiring mass murderer from boarding an airplane. But Klaidman, a most cooperative if unofficial White House spokesman, wants to insist that the spin is actually deep conviction:
Those words may have been dismissed as boilerplate, but Obama aides tell me they reflected a core conviction of the president's. In fact, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has also made encouraging "resiliency"—in government institutions as well as people—a priority. In surprisingly blunt language, the recently released Quadrennial Homeland Security Review says Americans will need to be "psychologically prepared to withstand" terrorism and other disasters, "and grow stronger over time."
At the article’s end, Klaidman returns to lobbing bombs at the "infantilizing" effects of the Bush-Cheney war on terrorism:
Americans are historically a tough lot. But the policies and rhetoric of the Bush-Cheney years, which set the tone for the current GOP attacks, are infantilizing: be very afraid, we're told, and let the government take care of you. The tough-guy bluster has led to a permanent state of anxiety—and a slew of counterproductive policies, from harsh visa restrictions to waterboarding. Our politicians rail about apocalyptic threats while TSA officers pat down toddlers at the airport. The irony is that many potentially lethal terror attacks—from United Flight 93 to Richard Reid to the underwear bomber—have been foiled by regular citizens. The aim of terrorists is to make people feel powerless and afraid. Unfortunately, not every plot will be foiled. But if that's the standard we and our leaders set for ourselves, we are doomed to perpetuate dumb policies that flow from irrational fears. Just what the terrorists want.
Postscript: Klaidman interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder for Newsweek’s year-end Interviews issue, and seemed intent on demonstrating to readers how close and personal his relationship with the attorney general is. He began by referring like a buddy to his wife as simply "Sharon," and ended by emphasizing Holder takes walks with him and calls him personally on the phone (resulting in puff pieces):
KLAIDMAN: In the summer, you and I took a walk in your old neighborhood. I remember you telling me about your mom and dad, who came from the West Indies, and what they really emphasized with you was the twin principles of achievement and humility. I'm curious how the humility plays. The achievement is obvious. But what about the humility?
HOLDER: Well, it's not a difficult thing to be humble. As attorney general of the United States, there are constant critics of actions that you take. I'm still a work in progress.
KLAIDMAN: I remember you'd just become attorney general, and you called me at my office, and you didn't do it through a secretary or assistant. One of our assistants answered the phone, and she put you on hold. You were on hold for two or three minutes. I'm guessing that doesn't happen to you very often, but would that annoy you now?
HOLDER: No, I don't think so. I still get placed on hold. That's a good thing, you know? You can't get too caught up in these jobs. You've got to remember who you were before, who you're going to be after. I've been on a lot of motorcades with whirring lights and sirens, but that's not who I am. That's not who I'm going to be.