For GOP, Should National Security Be New Focus?

It may have helped in Massachusetts

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Republicans are increasingly focused on issues of national security and terrorism, pressuring the Obama administration and lambasting Democratic policies. Many conservatives believe this approach aided now-Senator Scott Brown's surprise victory in Massachusetts and that it could help produce similar electoral victories in November.

Of course, national security concerns extend well beyond electoral politics, and members of both parties are lamenting the politicization of national security. But elections are about issues and national security will be among them in November. The question is, should Republicans emphasize national security? President Obama's approval rating on terrorism remains high relative to his overall approval, but most Americans oppose his specific policies, such as the use of civilian trials and classification of terrorists as criminals.

  • Terror Always Good for Right  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias explains, "More terrorist attacks lead to more electoral wins for right-wings and right-wing shifts in public opinion and public priorities." Therefore, "The issue isn’t that conservatives are helping terrorists by undermining our blessed unity. They’re locked in a dysfunctional codependent relationship with terrorist leaders—attacks on America boost the fortunes of the American right, and the American right’s preference for brutal tactics, aggressive militarism, and rum-amok nationalism boost the fortunes of the Islamism’s most aggressively violent fringe."
  • GOP Got Killed on Natsec in 2006  Spencer Ackerman says bring it. "I remember when Karl Rove tried to turn the 2006 election into a referendum on the awesomeness of warrantless surveillance. And I also remember when the GOP ran its most credible candidate for the national-security mantle — by far — for president in 2008. These elections resulted in Democratic landslide victories. Why not run the play again?" Ackerman predicts a GOP defeat on national security will bolster Democratic initiatives. "Canards disproven, the grown-ups can get back to business."
  • Dems Vulnerable on Detainees  Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen predicts the treatment of terrorists as civilians will swing support towards Republicans. "The handling of detainee issues is going to be a huge, huge issue in the period ahead," he says. "It's a huge vulnerability for Obama and the Democrats, and Republicans are starting to gather their courage and talking about this."
  • Giuliani's Exit Shows Terror No Longer Focus  Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin write that Rudy Giuliani's exit from politics "marks the expiration of two electoral forces that the former New York mayor came to embody: the urban revival of the ‘90s and the post-Sept. 11 politics of national security." They say that conservative, tough-on-terror movement he represented in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, may have faded.
  • How Dems Should Fight on Natsec  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen sees a political opening in Republican obstructionism. "There is, for example, the fact that the nominated head of the TSA can't get confirmed because of Republican obstructionism. Then there's the fact that congressional Republicans also opposed funding for the TSA, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems," he writes. "If Republicans really want to turn the attempted terrorist attack into a partisan fight, Democrats should welcome the opportunity."
  • 'Natural' Issue for GOP  Politico's Thrush and Kady call the focus "in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise." They cite as an example a recent House vote on the use of full-body scanners in airports, which some liberal Democrats voted against. "The measure was little-noticed at the time, but it could have a big impact if the Obama administration follows through on its pledge to increase such imaging, which experts say could have detected the explosives hidden on the body of the would-be airplane bomber."
  • How It Could 'Backfire'  NBC News' Mark Murray warns, "the partisan attacks could backfire on the GOP, given that Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has been blocking the administration's pick to head up the Transportation Security Administration. Moreover, dozens of House Republicans, including GOP critic Pete Hoekstra, voted against the Homeland Security appropriations bill, which contained more money for airport security and screening."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.