Monday, July 25, 2005
Are the Wheels Coming off the GOP Smear Machine?
Salon's War Room reports that Larry Johnson, who went through CIA training with Valerie Plame and has slammed the Republicans for claiming "undercover" agents never go to CIA headquarters, is the latest target of the Busheviks' kneejerk reaction of replying to criticism by killing the messengers.
The problem, though, is that there isn't any dirt to throw at Johnson, a registered Republican who entered the CIA with a letter of recommendation from Senator Orin Hatch, R-Utah. So in a new Weekly Standard piece titled "Meet Larry Johnson," the best that Gary Schmitt, director of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century, could muster was to accuse Johnson of having a "pre-9/11 mindset." Schmitt points to an Op-Ed that Johnson published in The New York Times on July 10, 2001, called "The Declining Terrorist Threat," in which he argued that fears of terrorist attacks in the U.S. were overblown. We read Johnson's piece and, we'll admit, it does make him look foolish. But there's a good reason why Johnson's argument suffers from a pre-9/11 mindset. Namely, he wrote it before 9/11.Is this is the best they can do? Their go-to guy for smear campaigns must be a little bit distracted right now.
Atrios dug up what Gary Schmitt himself wrote at the same time that Larry Johnson wrote his piece. Short version: Schmitt should be the last person to trash Larry Johnson's mindset when it comes to defending against terrorists.
The truth is that terrorism remains one of the least likely causes of harm or death. Vioxx may have claimed as many American lives as terrorists in the Bush era. By distorting national priorities in this way, Bushco has handed a huge victory to the terrorists.
The greatest dangers of terrorism are the effects on civil liberties and on the economy. And, of course, our national prosperity rests on civil liberties, since totalitarian states do not thrive for long.
On 9/11, the terrorists cost the economy less than half a percent in GDP, counting both human and property damage. And yet the economy suffered far more damage. The nation has incurred hundreds of billions of dollars of federal deficits, on the order of 10% of an annual GDP. Individuals have plunged deep into debt. So the multiplier effect of fear has been huge.
Bin Laden knows that if he can keep people scared for another few years, US power will be permanently blunted.
So, Johnson was right. Fear of terrorism, not terrorism is the real problem.
9/11 itself has driven too many people just completely bat-crap bonkers, and we as a nation may never fully recover. From this, Bush will profit much more than bin Laden.
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