by Ted on August 5, 2004

JuliusBlog has assembled a timeline of terror alerts, along with the bad news for the Bush Administration that preceeded them. They’ve done a good job of finding links and backup.

My take: It looks like a pattern- bad news for Bush is followed by a terror alert or the announcement that a terrorist has been captured- but I don’t think that I buy it. Any administration will consistently face a stream of bad news, large and small, bogus and legitimate. Even if the dates had been chosen by throwing darts at a wall calendar, a dedicated researcher could probably come up with a timeline that looked much like this.

I don’t think that it’s too hackish to say that a lot has gone wrong for Bush in the last year, but many of the most harmful stories were not met by a timely terror warning or capture announcement. I’m thinking of Richard Clarke, Valerie Plame, and the first release of pictures from Abu Ghraib.

I just don’t want to see this approach turned around on President Kerry, I guess.



PG 08.05.04 at 10:35 pm

Ted, good on you for calling this. There’s enough dirt on the Bush Administration without heading down the conspiracy theory route. And already the same methods used on Bush are being directed at Kerry.


Dan Levine 08.05.04 at 10:45 pm

I’m not positive this is what they did, but based on what I could find via the link, it seems like the research was done in reverse: there seemed to be bad news before every terror warning. A better question would be to find out whether a terror warning was issued after every piece of bad news. As Ted points out, this isn’t the case.

It seems as though the reason there is always bad news before the alerts is that this administration has had an almost constant steam of bad news over the past year. The fact they sprinkled the year with terror alerts doesn’t prove much.


alkali 08.05.04 at 11:06 pm

I would add, FWIW, Tom Ridge is basically a good guy with Colin Powell Syndrome: he eats way, way too much crap on behalf of this administration. I’m not surprised he, like Powell, plans to hang it up after November no matter what happens.


s_bethy 08.05.04 at 11:14 pm

“I just don’t want to see this approach turned around on President Kerry, I guess.”

We are already well into the “Poetic Justice as Fairness” cycle on this one. The terror alert timing accusations are echoes of Clinton’s “Wag the Dog” problem.

The attacks on Clinton may have played a part in our failure to neutralize Bin Laden in the nineties.

These attacks on Bush may diminish the effectiveness of the Terror Alert system (though that assumes that the Terror Alert system has some utility in the first place – stipulate it, okay?).

That we are willing to risk such damage for partisan gain is a sign of the contempt we have for our body politic. Unfortunately, it’s the same contempt that drags votes and generates billions of media dollars.

It is hard to imagine a politician or a party that could overcome this industry of contempt that has become such an integral part of our system of government. At least not until the system crashes.


Alaska Jack 08.06.04 at 12:26 am

This is a gracious and insightful post. My only quibble is that Ted does not hit hard enough. This is becoming a major theme among the anti-Bush crowd, and deserves a more thorough takedown. The fact is that you can draw these sort of spurious-but-superficially-convincing “connections” between ANY development and subsequent government action.

If the government says what it thinks, it’s accused of fearmongering. If it says nothing, it’s accused of negligence. It has the potential to become a real problem. Many kudos to Kerry and Lieberman for calling this sort of thinking nonsense.

– Alaska Jack


Adam Kotsko 08.06.04 at 12:58 am

Yes, we do tend to forget that the Bush administration does occasionally have to govern.


Barry 08.06.04 at 1:45 am

Adam, don’t blame yourself. The *administration* frequently forgets that it has to govern.


Barry 08.06.04 at 1:45 am

Adam, don’t blame yourself. The *administration* frequently forgets that it has to govern.


Katherine 08.06.04 at 5:45 am

I think there is no question that they have used warnings about terrorism to silence criticism. I don’t think the evidence is there yet they have used the alert system to do so, though I certainly have cynical thoughts about it.


doghouse riley 08.06.04 at 6:56 am

On the other hand there’s no public knowledge of any terror alert being followed by a attack or the foiling of one, and no significant terrorist incident since the system was implemented was preceded by a heightened alert.


twoghosts 08.06.04 at 8:33 am

Excellent call and thoughtful comments all the way. I realize the temptation sometimes to assume the worst in many cases, and I’ve witnessed some good, honest people get carried away and engage in all sorts of hyperbole against the Bush administration. They have done enough on their own and the truth is more than enough to see that they are not sent back for four more years. Plus, if we expect to preserve our integrity we will win this the honest way.


mc 08.06.04 at 9:12 am

I have a few problems with that kind of reasoning.

If Kerry was elected, seems to me the relevant part is whether he would act in the same manner, not whether he would produce the same criticism (or lack of it)!

If you don’t want to even acknowledge that a government can play PR with terrorism, then what exactly is left to criticise?


Neel Krishnaswami 08.06.04 at 6:31 pm

I’m actually cutting the Bush administration slack on this one because I thought Clinton did the wag-the-dog thing in the Sudan, and I was wrong then. However, I’m sort of glad that other people aren’t, because it’s reinforcing the general impression that the terror alert system is basically useless. I’m not entirely sure this is a consistent set of beliefs, but that’s what I’ve got.


Katherine 08.07.04 at 1:44 am

Oh for the love of….

By going public with their information with their source for the latest orange alert, they leaked the identity of a Pakistani suspect who was cooperating actively & getting information from his Al Qaeda contacts.

(I know, I know…Howard Dean made them do it. PLEASE.)


mitch p. 08.07.04 at 3:06 am

Speaking of timelines

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