CNN political analyst and former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts baselessly claimed that "Republicans aren't going to allow Democrats off the hook on national security" because the American public has "the perception that Democrats don't care about national security, just like they say Republicans don't care about poor people." In fact, polls show a significant decline in the advantage Republicans held on the issue of national security and indicate that Americans now trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the "campaign against terrorism."
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On the August 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN political analyst and former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) baselessly claimed that "Republicans aren't going to allow Democrats off the hook on national security" because the American public has "the perception that Democrats don't care about national security, just like they say Republicans don't care about poor people." In fact, a recent Newsweek poll shows a significant decline in the advantage Republicans held on the issue of national security preceding the 2002 midterm election, and three of the last four Washington Post polls have indicated that Americans now trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the "campaign against terrorism."
Although a Newsweek poll conducted August 10-11 indicated that 44 percent of those polled "trust Republicans to do a better job" in the fight against terrorism, compared with the 39 percent who trust the Democrats more, Newsweek also noted that Democrats have made significant gains on the issue since the 2002 midterm elections when "the Republicans held a 23-point lead over the Democrats, according to the Oct. 24-25 NEWSWEEK Poll that year." A CBS News poll conducted August 13-14 showed Republicans with a 42 to 36 percent advantage on the question of who is "more likely to make the right decisions when it comes to dealing with terrorism." However, as Media Matters for America noted, three of the last four Washington Post polls, the most recent of which was conducted August 3-6, have found that a plurality of Americans trusts Democrats over Republicans to handle the "U.S. campaign against terrorism."
As Media Matters noted, on the August 9 edition of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer left unchallenged an assertion by CNN contributor Bay Buchanan that the public would not back Democrats if they pushed for a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, despite an August 2-3 CNN poll which found that 57 percent of Americans backed a timetable for withdrawal.
From a discussion on the August 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, which also featured Democratic strategist Donna Brazile:
BLITZER: All right, J.C., is there -- is this a two-edged sword? Are a lot of American voters going to say: "You know what? This administration got involved in a war in Iraq that's not necessarily directly involved in the war on terror, and, in the process, didn't spend enough, do enough to fight Al Qaeda and other terrorists"?
WATTS: Well, Wolf, I continue to believe that you cannot separate Iraq and the war on terror. And I think most Republicans -- and I think there are some Democrats that believe that as well, and I think Joe Lieberman paid a price for believing that. You can't separate Iraq and the war on terror. And I think, when you look at what's going on up there in Lebanon, with Hezbollah and the Israeli military, when you consider that, think about what that area would be had the United States not been in Iraq, in Afghanistan. The entire Middle East would be converging on Israel.
But the fact that we're there, I think, has made a difference. And, so, I think the American people are thinking security. I think, when you see the type of statements made by [National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman and current Rep.] Tom Reynolds [R-NY], I think, you know, in terms of Washington politics, that is politics. But it's also politics when you hear people calling the president a liar and he manipulated the intelligence concerning Iraq.
You know, none of that does any good in keeping the American people safe. And I think, when you consider that what's been perpetuated, or the perception that Democrats don't care about national security, just like they say Republicans don't care about poor people, you know, Republicans aren't going to allow Democrats off the hook on national security, just like Democrats wouldn't allow Republicans off the hook in terms of dealing with poor people's issues.
BLITZER: Donna, I want you to respond to that, but also in the context of what we heard the president say within the past hour or so. He suggested, it really was unseemly for politicians in Washington to be trying to score political points on this gut issue of fighting terrorism.
BRAZILE: Well, I hope the president made that statement after consulting with the vice president. After all, it was the vice president who held a rare press conference last week to comment on, of all things, not on British Petroleum stopping pumping gas in Alaska but, rather, to comment on the [Senator Joseph I.] Lieberman-[ Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Ned] Lamont race. So, perhaps the Republicans should listen to the president and not play politics with national security. But the Republicans have a long history of playing politics with national security. And the only difference this time is that Democrats are going to point out their record. And Democrats will talk to the American people about real security, and what it means to live in a world where we're not always seen as the bad guy.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile and J.C. Watts, and, as you saw earlier, Jeff Greenfield, they are all part of the best political team on television -- CNN, America's campaign headquarters.