By Dave Johnson and James Boyce.
Will America be safer with a Republican president?
This has been the big “elephant in the room” question: the Republican branding of “strong on defense.” Did any of the candidates knock this down?
Senator Clinton Senatorially said it is a “disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality” and then dived into policy details. “We haven’t secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems … resources haven’t gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government…”
Senator Dodd also filibustered with boring policy details. “our first responders are not getting the support they deserve. The administration has been resistant in supporting them … , not building the kind of international support — stateless terrorism is a multinational problem … requires a multinational response … institutions we need to build to effectively engage and fight back against terrorism … need to have leadership that knows how to build those relationships, to encourage that kind of participation…”
The other candidates didn’t get a chance to respond, and politely did not.
But this is the question. This is, to many, the only question. Why didn’t these candidates knock it out of the park?
We would not have been so polite. We would have made Mike Gravel look tame and shy — shouting and waving our arms. We would have said:
“This is a lie. This is a marketing fraud perpetuated by the Right Wing against the American people. This is a well funded marketing program that is determined to mislead the American people and give them the Right Wing the power to send our sons and daughters to their deaths. It is just false.
This country was attacked on 9/11 and Americans died because this Republican administration was weak, not strong.
New York firefighters died because Rudy Giuliani was incompetent, and far from a hero.
The facts are clear. The Republicans market the myth. The Democrats deal in the reality of serving their country on the battlefield when they’re young and keeping this country safer when they serve in Washington.”
From the debate transcript:
MR. WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you. We’re all out of time.
Senator Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, a friend of yours from back home, said this past week, quote: “The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.” Another quote: “America will be safer with a Republican president.” How do you think, Senator, it happened that that notion of Republicans as protectors in a post-9/11 world has taken on so?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Brian, I think that, as a senator from New York, it is something that I’ve worked on very hard ever since 9/11 to try to convince the administration to do those things that would actually work to make us safer. And I think there’s a big disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality.
You know, we haven’t secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems. You can go across this country and see so much that has not been done. The resources haven’t gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government the way that they need to, and I think that this administration has consistently tried to hype the fear without delivering on the promise of making America safer. And its foreign policy around the world, as you’ve heard from all of my colleagues here, has also made the world less stable, which, of course, has a ripple effect with respect to what we’re going to face in the future.
So I hope that we can put that myth to rest. It is certainly something I will try to do during that — the campaign.
MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd, same question. How has this label been attached to the Democratic Party, that the Republicans will protect America best?
SEN. DODD: Well, that’s a great question, Brian, because it’s a myth in the sense when you consider what this administration has done over six years, given the attacks we faced on 9/11. Here, our first responders are not getting the support they deserve. The administration has been resistant in supporting them. The war in Iraq — we haven’t been dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where our efforts should have been over the last number of years, not building the kind of international support — stateless terrorism is a multinational problem. It’s a tactic. It requires a multinational response. This administration has walked away from that. The very institutions we need to build to effectively engage and fight back against terrorism, this administration seems to take the other track and move in a different direction.
I would have answered your question earlier on what’s a serious threat we face. It is stateless terrorism. It isn’t states; it’s the absence of diplomacy, the absence of engaging nations around the world to build those relationships that allow us to have a far more effective response to these — this scourge that we face in this century. We need to have leadership that knows how to build those relationships, to encourage that kind of participation. This administration’s done just the opposite.
MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.