There's a reason why Newt Gingrich is on the political sidelines, and there's a reason why Vice President Dick Cheney does not have a Republican successor to carry on his preferred policies. On Sunday's Meet the Press, the contrasts in terrorism and national security policy between President Obama and these leading Republicans were in high relief.
After discussing the personal investment in aggressive counterterrorism Dick Cheney and others in the Bush White House had after the "shock" of 9/11, Newt Gingrich said:
Let me just say, I think people should be afraid. I think the lesson of 1993 -- the first time they bombed the World Trade Center -- was: Fear is probably appropriate. I think the lesson of Khobar Towers -- where American service men were killed in Saudi Arabia -- was: Fear is probably appropriate. I think the lesson of the two embassy bombings in East Africa was: Fear is probably appropriate. I think the lesson of the Cole being bombed in Yemen was: Fear is probably appropriate.
I'll tell you, if you aren't a little bit afraid after 9/11 and 3,100 Americans killed inside the United States by an effort. If you aren't worried about the second-wave attack that was designed to take out the biggest building in Los Angeles, I think that you are out of touch with reality.
Host David Gregory asked:
But, Speaker Gingrich, you make the point about how Vice President Cheney felt -- personally, personal fear. And isn't President Obama's argument that fear as a basis of national security policy is not sustainable over time? How do you come up with a sustainable legal framework, a sustainable national security policy? Don't we elect leaders to transcend fear for lasting policy?
Gingrich's response was to cite the sustained American effort in the Cold War. There was, of course, background fear of nuclear war and communism during that time, but the policy that got us through the Cold War was the pragmatic and rational policy of containment -- a far cry from policymaking based in fear.
For the time being, Republicans appear to be "on tilt" about terrorism, and seeking their footing in the politics of panic.