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Did Cheney Go Too Far?

"GOP strategists say that the latest developments prove that Bush's vigilance in the war on terrorism is paying off and that he is, indeed, working with allies -- particularly Great Britain -- to foil plots by the 'evildoers.' "

Mike Allen dutifully related the post-Lieberman Republican spin in his blog on Wednesday, and in time for the weekend received an exclusive look at everything the White House did brilliantly regarding the terror plot. For instance: "The President told [Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism] he wanted to ensure accountability with an elaborate record of the White House response and deliberations. Townsend kept that record in a bulging red folder on her desk and a single-spaced, minute-by-minute annotation of her Outlook calendar pages."

Other Ways of Looking At It

Eric Boehlert writes in the Nation: "The Beltway's simplistic, yet overheated, argument went like this: By voting out a pro-war, conservative Democrat, Connecticut voters (i.e., the 'elitist insurgents') would taint the party nationally by advertising Democrats as being soft on national security. That mindset, trumpeted by Time's Mike Allen, among others, represents an absolute refusal by MSM to divorce themselves from the notion that Republicans own the issue of national security and that Americans only trust conservatives to deal with foreign policy. That, despite the fact that a steady stream of polls indicate a majority of Americans are fed up with Bush's messianic worldview (a record-high 60 percent now disapprove of the war, according to CNN), and more Americans trust Democrats to do a better job protecting the peace as well as fighting the war on terror."

David E. Sanger writes in the New York Times about the debate over "whether five years of war declarations and war-making have helped to make the United States more secure. Or, even in the absence of a major attack on American soil since 9/11, has this strategy created greater danger by providing terror groups with exactly what they crave: the sense that they are a unified army of jihadists? And has the strategy radicalized large swaths of the Muslim world in ways that were not imaginable as recently as 2003?

"For the White House, the bomb plot last week was Exhibit A in defense of the war strategy: the plotters would go after Americans, war or no war in Iraq. But critics argue that merging the global war on terror and Iraq was creating new jihadists, from Indonesia to Walthamstow, the East London area where much of the plot was hatched."

Ivo Daalder writes on "At the core of the administrations' war on terror are two strategies, neither of which appear to be particularly relevant in this particular case. . . .

"What appears to have cracked this case is not a war strategy or military offensive, but good intelligence, skilled detective work, and months of careful surveillance -- the kind of traditional law enforcement strategies and defensive measures that Bush and his administration have always shunned.

"This apparent success also undermines the second core element of the administration's war on terror -- the notion that effective counter-terrorism action requires ignoring established procedures and the rule of law."

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

William Greider writes in the Nation: "An evil symbiosis does exist between Muslim terrorists and American politicians, but it is not the one Republicans describe. The jihadists need George W. Bush to sustain their cause. His bloody crusade in the Middle East bolsters their accusation that America is out to destroy Islam. The president has unwittingly made himself the lead recruiter of willing young martyrs.

"More to the point, it is equally true that Bush desperately needs the terrorists. They are his last frail hope for political survival. They divert public attention, at least momentarily, from his disastrous war in Iraq and his shameful abuses of the Constitution. The 'news' of terror -- whether real or fantasized -- reduces American politics to its most primitive impulses, the realm of fear-and-smear where George Bush is at his best. . . .

"The White House men wear grave faces, but they cannot hide their delight."

Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times opinion column (subscription required): "We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration's fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever. . . .

"All Mr. Bush and his party can do at this point is demonize their opposition. And my guess is that the public won't go for it, that Americans are fed up with leadership that has nothing to hope for but fear itself."

Fox News's Bill O'Reilly on Friday confronted former colleague Tony Snow with the Democratic charge that Bush is trying to frighten Americans.

Snow: "I'm not aware that the president's ever tried to frighten anybody. However, I believe that some of his opponents have tried to frighten the Americans into believing that we're weak, that we cannot win, that we do not have a plan, and that in general, everybody doesn't like us so we ought to walk away, so they will like us. . . .

"O'REILLY: You said that the president -- you weren't aware the president's trying to scare anybody. Yet yesterday, Dick Cheney said that the election of Ned Lamont to run for Senate, beating Lieberman, is a boon to Al Qaeda. Isn't that -- can you consider that scare tactics by the vice president?

"SNOW: Well, I'll let the vice president speak for himself. I speak for the president. Let me get back to my other point, which was that the president -- look, he gets up every day. He gets assessments of how scary the world really is. You want to get scared? Look at the stuff he looks at every morning."

Bill Schneider reports for CNN: "Typically, when Americans become fearful their support for the president tends to go up."

But then he asks: "Will the issue work for Republicans this year?

"In a CNN poll taken by the Opinion Research Corporation last week -- before the arrest of terror suspects in Britain -- terrorism topped the list of issues that voters said would be 'extremely important' to their vote this year. . . .

"But among voters concerned about terrorism, slightly more said they would vote for a Democrat (50 percent) rather than a Republican (45 percent) for Congress."

And yet early results suggest fear is having its predictable effect: Marcus Mabry writes that a new Newsweek poll conducted Thursday and Friday nights "suggests that news of a serious terror threat boosts the president's ratings. . . .

"According to the poll. . . . 55 percent disapprove of how the president is doing his job, while 38 percent approve, an increase of 3 points since the May 11-12 Newsweek Poll. But a majority, 55 percent, approve of Bush's handling of terrorism and homeland security (40 percent disapprove), an 11-point boost since May, returning the president to levels not seen since early 2005."

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted just before the plot was foiled found Bush's approval rating down to 33 percent -- and public approval of Bush's handling of foreign policy and terrorism down to 40 percent, near the lowest levels of his presidency. A contemporaneous Harris Poll had Bush's approval rating at 34 percent, unchanged from July.

Cause for Cynicism

John Solomon writes for the Associated Press: "As the British terror plot was unfolding, the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology."

Aram Roston and Lisa Myers report for NBC: "NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

"A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner."

Stranger Than Fiction

What is the least likely book you could possibly imagine Bush reading during his downtime?

Agence France Presse reports that Bush read French existential writer Albert Camus's "The Stranger."

"White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that Bush, here on his Texas ranch enjoying a 10-day vacation from Washington, had made quick work of the Algerian-born writer's 1946 novel -- in English."

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