On Hardball, Cillizza asserted Democrats "need to prove" they can keep Americans "as safe as Republicans can"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, discussing an August 1 speech in which Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) proposed a comprehensive strategy to fight global terrorism, WashingtonPost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza said: "Democrats still know they need to prove to the American public that they can keep them just as safe as Republicans can." However, several recent polls indicate that Democrats don't need to "prove to the American public that they can keep them just as safe as Republicans can." Moreover, as The New York Times reported, the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) "concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years." The Times also reported that "President Bush's top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged today [July 17, the release of the NIE] that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan had failed."

An August 1 Rasmussen Reports survey showed that "Democrats now enjoy at least a nominal edge on all ten issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports to gauge voters' trust of the two major parties" -- including national security, taxes, abortion, economy, immigration, education, war in Iraq, Social Security, ethics and corruption, and health care. Specifically, Democrats lead Republicans 47 percent to 35 percent on the war in Iraq and 42 percent to 40 percent on national security.

A July 25-26 Rasmussen Reports survey found that, given a choice among the leading 2008 presidential candidates -- including Republicans such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN), Sen. John McCain (AZ), and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- "28% of American adults said that they would trust New York Senator Hillary Clinton the most on national security issues," leading all candidates. The top Republican was Giuliani, with 20 percent.

A July 27-30 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll produced more mixed results, with Democrats and Republicans tied on the issue of "dealing with the war on terrorism," Democrats favored over Republicans 38 percent to 23 percent on who would do "a better job" in "dealing with Iraq" and Republicans favored 33 percent to 21 percent on the question of "dealing with homeland security."

A June 25-26 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that a group of registered voters would prefer Democrats to be "in charge" given a hypothetical "all-out war between the United States and various radical Muslim groups worldwide"; Democrats were favored by 41 percent of respondents, while Republicans were favored by 38 percent.

As The New York Times reported, the most recent NIE "concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years." As Media Matters has documented, the NIE states that Al Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" during the Bush administration. Specifically, this "regenerat[ion] includes "a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership." From the NIE:

Al-Qa'ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership. Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the United States with ties to al-Qa'ida senior leadership since 9/11, we judge that al-Qa'ida will intensify its efforts to put operatives here.

  • As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.

We assess that al-Qa'ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa'ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa'ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

From the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MIKE BARNICLE (guest host): First up, Obama the warrior. Just days after Hillary Clinton tried to beat up Barack Obama over his willingness to meet with enemy leaders; Obama delivered a tough-talking speech this morning on fighting terrorists. In his speech, Senator Obama entertained the idea of sending U.S. troops into Pakistan to root out enemies. Take a look at this.

OBAMA [video clip]: It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets, and President [of Pakistan Pervez] Musharraf will not act, we will.

BARNICLE: So, is Senator Obama worried about being turned into a [Eugene] McCarthy or a [Nixon White House counsel] John Dean, Chris Cillizza? You're downtown at the Post. What do you think? What, is he putting his general's uniform on -- let's, you know, go into Pakistan now?

CILLIZZA: Well, I think there are two things going on. Number one, remember, Obama -- even though we now know, in the political world, know a lot about him; average voters are still getting to know him. And he wants to make sure that they don't just see him as a fresh face and hopeful. You know, some of his rivals have said hope isn't a policy. He wants to go beyond it.

Number two, times have changed, but they haven't changed that much. Democrats still know they need to prove to the American public that they can keep them just as safe as Republicans can. I think this is aimed at saying what happened with the war in Iraq is that we fought the wrong war. Democrats are not against going and attacking our enemies, going and getting terrorists. But we need to keep our eye on the ball. So, it's tough and strong, which, remember, that's what Democrats still need to be.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Cillizza
Show/Publication
Hardball
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