On the October 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN political analyst and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) declared: "[I]t seems as though [Sen.] Russ Feingold [D-WI] and people like him are always on the side of the terrorists. That's the perception." But rather than challenge Watts's accusation, host Wolf Blitzer simply turned to CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and said: "[T]here are plenty of voters out there who believe that, when it comes to fighting terrorists, the Republicans know how to do it better." In fact, recent polling indicates that most voters prefer Democrats over Republicans on the issue of terrorism and national security, as Begala noted, and Media Matters for America recently documented.
Watts also suggested that Feingold has not taken any action "to protect American lives from evil people, from the terrorists." But on September 29, Feingold introduced a resolution that would call on the president, U.S. allies, and the Afghan government to "immediately increase its efforts to eradicate the Taliban, terrorist organizations, and criminal networks currently operating in Afghanistan, including by increasing United States military and other personnel and equipment in Afghanistan as necessary." In 2004, Feingold submitted an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that required "an integrated strategic transportation security plan" and was agreed to unanimously. Blitzer responded to Watts's claims by telling Begala that "there are plenty of voters out there who believe" that Republicans "know how" to "fight terrorists" better.
Begala noted that "there are more voters who believe Democrats will do better," an assertion backed up by recent polling. For instance, Blitzer himself told Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman on the October 15 edition of CNN's Late Edition that "[a]ccording to our CNN poll ... perhaps most worrisome for you as a good Republican -- Who does a better job on terrorism? -- which should be, at least has been a very strong issue for Republicans, 45 percent for the Democrats; 40 percent for Republicans."
Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, other recent polls indicate that Democrats hold an advantage over Republicans in dealing with the fight against terrorism. For example, a Gallup/USA Today poll conducted October 6-8 gave Democrats a five-point advantage over Republicans -- 46 percent to 41 percent -- on "who would best handle terrorism"; a Newsweek poll conducted October 5-6 gave Democrats a seven-point advantage -- 44 percent to 37 percent -- on the question of "which party is more trusted to fight the war on terror"; and an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted October 5-8 gave Democrats a six-point advantage -- 47 percent to 41 percent -- on the question of "which political party" would "do a better job handling [t]he U.S. campaign against terrorism."
As Media Matters noted, on the August 14 edition of The Situation Room, 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."
From the October 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Here's what -- here's what Russ Feingold said today reacting to the signing ceremony -- he was very angry about it: "The legislation signed by the president today violates basic principles and values of our constitutional system of government. It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court. ... We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history." The Democratic Senator Russ Feingold making that statement.
WATTS: Well, you know, bless his heart. I -- you know, I'm really not concerned about the president saving the Republican Party, I'm concerned about the president saving American lives, and Russ Feingold, I suspect that he probably did not vote for this legislation.
BLITZER: He didn't.
WATTS: And -- that's a safe -- safe guess. But, you know, Wolf, what -- what has he done? What has Senator Feingold done to protect American lives from evil people, from the terrorists? It seems as though -- and I think this is the thing that Democrats have to be careful about -- it seems as though Russ Feingold and people like him are always on the side of the terrorists. That's the perception. I think this is serious legislation, and I think it saves American lives. The president's done a good job enforcing this issue and Russ Feingold is on the wrong side of that.
BLITZER: Paul, there are plenty of voters out there who believe that when it comes to fighting terrorists, the Republicans know how to do it better.
BEGALA: There are, but there are more voters who believe Democrats will do better and for good reason, because people are smart. They've been watching this crowd run things. They're wholly incompetent. It's the same gang, you know, same administration that couldn't manage Katrina, now has botched the occupation of Afghanistan, they botched the war in Iraq, and they're botching the war against terrorism.