Author Jeff Greenfield writes in Politico Magazine that the response to the Paris jihadist terror attacks has been a prime example of the “politics of fear.”
This is the season of fear—for experiencing it, exploiting it and pooh-poohing it.
Exhibit A, of course, is Donald Trump, who had already risen to the top of the GOP polls by exploiting Americans’ fears of immigrants and foreigners and who, following the Paris attacks, went on a fear-mongering bender. He endorsed waterboarding, appeared to embrace a registry for Muslims and vividly remembered thousands of Jersey City Muslims cheering the carnage of September 11—an incident for which there is no evidence.
The result is that Trump’s poll numbers have gone up, and voters rate him as best able to deal with terrorism.
Meanwhile President Obama has tacked sharply in the other direction, playing down the public’s anxiety, defiantly continuing to downgrade the possibility of an attack on the U.S. and the capabilities of Islamic State. “They’re a bunch of killers with good social media,” Obama told reporters on Sunday as he finished out his 10-day overseas trip.
Secretary of State John Kerry continued the theme, telling NBC from Abu Dhabi, “ISIS is not 10 feet tall.” Obama’s dismissiveness is no doubt one reason for Trump’s popularity; clearly many voters believe our current crop of leaders—starting with the president—have been too inattentive to their fears.
Can anyone get the message right?The political reaction to the Paris attacks was as swift as it was powerful, all of it built on a foundation of fear. Within days, a veto-proof majority of the House—including 50 Democrats—voted to bar Syrian refugees from entering the country. Polls showed a dramatic, fully predictable, leap in concern over terror.
Republican candidates competed to see who could be more militant in barring America’s doors to the refugees. Gov. Chris Christie won this prize by pronouncing his opposition to orphans under the age of 5; at least until Trump endorsed a national database registry for Muslims (or at least Muslim refugees; he wasn’t clear which).
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