Blitzer cited "this notion that the Democrats are weak when it comes to national security" -- not according to polling

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In response to Cybercast News Service editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey's statement that "[i]f the Democrats in the Senate want to ban the procedure by which we got vital information out of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Harry Reid ought to put up a bill right now that says: 'Waterboarding is forbidden. What we did to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed may not be done again.' " CNN's Wolf Blitzer replied: "It sort of reinforces this notion that the Democrats are weak when it comes to national security. That's been a very successful strategy for the Republicans for decades now." In fact, polling shows that the public is split on which party is better on handling terrorism, with some polls showing Democrats with a slight lead.

On the November 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, in response to Cybercast News Service editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey's statement that "[i]f the Democrats in the Senate want to ban the procedure by which we got vital information out of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] ought to put up a bill right now that says, 'Waterboarding is forbidden. What we did to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed may not be done again,' " host Wolf Blitzer replied: "It sort of reinforces this notion that the Democrats are weak when it comes to national security. That's been a very successful strategy for the Republicans for decades now." However, while many in the media have claimed that the Democrats continue to have a disadvantage in public opinion on issues of national security, polling does not show that Republicans have an advantage. Instead, polling shows that the public is split on which party is better on handling terrorism, with some polls showing Democrats with a slight lead and some showing Republicans with a slight lead.

In an article about a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll released October 31, Politico senior political writer David Paul Kuhn wrote on November 1 that "polling has also showed that, for the first time in decades, Americans now see the two parties as equally qualified to face down national security threats -- erasing the 'security advantage' Republicans have long relied on." Kahn did not specify which polls he was discussing. Similarly, Atlantic Monthly senior editor Clive Crook wrote in an October 6 National Journal column: "The Republicans' slender hope in 2008 is that voters trust them more on national security than they do the Democrats. But the polls increasingly say otherwise."

Indeed, three September polls showed a Democratic lead on the issue of which political party the American public trusts more on terrorism and national security, while an October poll shows Republicans leading:

  • A September poll by Rasmussen Reports, based on surveys with margins of error of +/-2.9 and +/-3.5 points, found a statistical tie between the parties: 44 percent trusted the Democrats more on national security and the fight against terrorism, while 43 percent preferred the Republicans.
  • As Media Matters for America has noted, a September 14-16 Gallup poll with a margin of error of +/-3 points, asked: "Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats?" Forty-seven percent answered Democrats, while 42 percent said Republicans.
  • A September 30 Washington Post/ABC News with a margin of error of +/-3 points found that 41 percent of respondents said they trusted the Democrats on "[t]he U.S. campaign against terrorism" as opposed to 40 percent who said they trusted Republicans.
  • An October Rasmussen Reports poll, based on surveys with margins of error of +/-2.9 and +/-3.5 points, 41 percent of respondents trusted the Democrats more on national security and the fight against terrorism, while 45 percent of respondents preferred the Republicans.

Blitzer, Jeffrey, and Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter were discussing attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey. Several Democrats have declared their opposition to the nomination following Mukasey's unwillingness to declare the interrogation technique known as waterboarding to be torture in an October 30 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

As Media Matters noted, on the previous day's Situation Room, Blitzer claimed that there was "political torture" involved in Mukasey's political nomination process.

From the November 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: I'll play the clip of what the president said, making this analogy to the bad old days. Listen to this.

BUSH [video clip]: Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is: Will we listen? America and our coalition partners are listening. We have made our choice. We take the words of the enemy seriously.

BLITZER: All right, Stephanie, that -- that, obviously, very strong words. It's going to scare a lot of people, but will it work politically?

CUTTER: Well, I don't think it's even going to scare a lot of people. I mean, these words now ring hollow to so many Americans, because we've been hearing these threats for going on seven years.

And, if he wanted to do something about the war on terror and address the threat that's raised by our enemies, he'd change the policy in Iraq; he'd put more troops in Afghanistan; and he'd listen to his own generals about breaking the back of the military.

BLITZER: His credibility is sort of weak right now, you got to admit, Terry.

JEFFREY: Well, Wolf, it's been more than six years since September 11th. We have not had another Al Qaeda attack. I think, if you'd ask most Senate Democrats on September 12, 2001, they would not have believed that would happen.

Right now, they're talking about holding up the confirmation of Mr. Mukasey as attorney general of the United States over the issue of waterboarding.

Brian Ross of ABC News reported that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, was broken by our CIA after he was waterboarded, and he, in fact, revealed ongoing Al Qaeda plots against the United States. If the Democrats in the Senate want to ban the procedure by which we got vital information out of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Harry Reid ought to put up a bill right now that says, "Waterboarding is forbidden. What we did to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed may not be done again."

BLITZER: It sort of reinforces this notion that the Democrats are weak when it comes to national security. That's been a very successful strategy for the Republicans for decades now.

CUTTER: Mm-hmm. Well, it's not just Democrats that think waterboarding is wrong; it's Democrats and Republicans. [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ] and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-SC] think that waterboarding is wrong. You know, this is the attorney general of the United States. The attorney general is supposed to be executing our laws. Waterboarding is illegal. Why can't he just say that?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
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