Was Black right, and does that matter?

posted at 9:04 am on June 25, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The off-hand analysis of Charlie Black on the political effect of a terrorist attack continues to reverberate, but the Washington Post wonders if Black wasn’t right.  The Obama campaign certainly acts as though he was, with their high-profile efforts to counter Black’s remarks in Fortune, which seem almost — almost – innocuous in context.  Just a hint of bin Laden in 2004 cost John Kerry the election … according to John Kerry:

Sen. Barack Obama and his surrogates continued to criticize Charles R. Black Jr., a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, on Tuesday for saying a terrorist attack before the November election would help the presumptive Republican nominee. But behind their protests lay a question that has dogged Democrats since Sept. 11, 2001: Was Black speaking the truth? …

To this day, Kerry (D-Mass.) has blamed an Osama bin Laden videotape released on Oct. 29, 2004, for his defeat in the election the following week. And McCain, while campaigning in Connecticut for Rep. Christopher Shays that week in 2004, described the bin Laden video as a boost for Bush. “I think it’s very helpful to President Bush,” McCain said at the time. “It focuses America’s attention on the war on terrorism. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it does have an effect.”

If Kerry has the same analysis as Black, and apparently offers it publicly, then what’s the big deal?  Let’s take a look at Black’s comments in their full context, courtesy of Dafydd at Big Lizards (emphases his):

Not America’s dependence on foreign oil? Not climate change? Not the crushing cost of health care? Eventually McCain gets around to mentioning all three of those. But he starts by deftly turning the economy into a national security issue – and why not? On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy – this according to McCain’s chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an “unfortunate event,” says Black. “But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us.” As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. “Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,” says Black.

McCain wasn’t the only candidate with a comeback in New Hampshire.  Hillary won the state in a surprise, too, and while the pundits ascribed that to her emotional outburst, it could just as easily have been the Bhutto assassination.  Hillary had built her campaign on a ready-to-lead theme, and that momentary intrusion of international reality could have briefly focused Democratic voters on terrorism rather than the economy.

Is it somewhat impolitic to express Black’s analysis?  Perhaps, but it shouldn’t be.  The Obama campaign has said over and over again that they want a robust debate on national security, but their response to Black and their rejection of town-hall debates says otherwise.  The truth is that Obama’s appeasement-minded initiatives towards America’s enemies have made him look soft on terrorism, and the Obama team wants to keep the debate focused on the economy as much as possible, where Obama’s populism can prevail over McCain’s market approaches.  Any reminder that the world is a dangerous place makes it difficult for Obama.

It’s clear from the context that Black wasn’t running around the media with the trope of “we’re hoping for a terrorist attack” for sale.  Fortune asked him a blunt question, and he gave an honest answer — and one so unremarkable that Fortune didn’t bother to ask a follow-up.  If that’s good enough for John Kerry to use as a rationalization for four years, why does Black’s offhand comment cause such consternation?


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Seems to me that it no longer matters what people are actually saying.
If someone is a conservative, a republican, or even speak kindly about conservative issues, they are wrong. The facts and the reality never matters.
it’s maddening.

bridgetown on June 25, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Asked and answered.

drjohn on June 25, 2008 at 9:13 AM

Charlie Black is absolutely right. Every one knows that. Ony thing not right is McCain keep on distancing himself from his supporters. One day, I think he is going to stand alone with no body standing with him, if he keep on budging to MSM rather than to his supporters.

Anita on June 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM

why does Black’s offhand comment cause such consternation?

There are plenty of people on the left and right who look at 9/11 through partisan glasses. Most don’t. To me American’s focus is on the people in the WTC, Pentagon, and four airliners. We just don’t give a damn which side of the politcle aisle they were on. That is why Black’s comments cause consternation. It isn’t the act of terrorism that punches us in the gut, it is the final result that puts advantage comments, like Black’s, in the STHU catagory.

Limerick on June 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM

This is one of those “if they bring a knife, we bring a gun” moments for Barry. He’s smarting because his advisors are being outed for what they are, and he needs payback. He’ll never be able shed his soft on terror personna, so does an end around by hyping this nonevent.

a capella on June 25, 2008 at 9:17 AM

With McCain throwing anyone over the side who says or has ever said anything, what difference does it make?

Skipper50 on June 25, 2008 at 9:23 AM

McCain wasn’t the only candidate with a comeback in New Hampshire. Hillary won the state in a surprise, too, and while the pundits ascribed that to her emotional outburst, it could just as easily have been the Bhutto assassination. Hillary had built her campaign on a ready-to-lead theme, and that momentary intrusion of international reality could have briefly focused Democratic voters on terrorism rather than the economy.

Don’t you think that had to do with the fact that Bhutto was a woman, and Hillary played the “I was friends with Bhutto card”?

Buy Danish on June 25, 2008 at 9:27 AM

“The Muslim world, and terrorists thereof, hate Americans because of Bush’s nation building. When I am president, peoples of the whole world, including our Muslim friends, will love America again and we will once again bask in the Utopia that only I can bring forth. Any terrorist attacks ocurring prior to election day should be viewed as the Muslim world taking a stand against Bush, and clamouring for the new world order, ordained and promised by me, the Messiah.

So let it be written, so let it be done.”

Barack Hussein Obama

fogw on June 25, 2008 at 9:27 AM

Charlie Black is absolutely right. Every one knows that. Ony thing not right is McCain keep on distancing himself from his supporters. One day, I think he is going to stand alone with no body standing with him, if he keep on budging to MSM rather than to his supporters.

Anita on June 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM

I got a request from John McVain and the RNC for money. I sent them a note on the form, that I would be glad to send them money just as soon as McVain wakes up to the glowball warming hoax and the RNC decides to quit acting like liberals. Until I can see that conservative values are part of the mix, the WOT isn’t just a conservative value even if the libs don’t think so, I won’t be supporting them monetarily.

belad on June 25, 2008 at 9:39 AM

He still shouldn’t have said it. It doesn’t matter how he meant it, it will still be viewed as wanting another terrorist attack, which is exactly what the Truthers will say if another one happens.

And while it’s true that an attack would benefit him, it really shouldn’t be. McCain and Bush’s strengths are that another one hasn’t happened. If another one does happen, then they’re doing something wrong.

But without another attack, we forget about the danger, so what shouldn’t help, does.

Esthier on June 25, 2008 at 9:46 AM

Is it somewhat impolitic to express Black’s analysis? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t be. The Obama campaign has said over and over again that they want a robust debate on national security…

Thank you, Ed! If more on our side would stand up to their PC bullying, we might be in better shape today.

I hate it when we let them tell us what we’re not allowed to say, and frame the debate so as to guarantee that we lose it.

petefrt on June 25, 2008 at 10:09 AM

To this day, Kerry (D-Mass.) has blamed an Osama bin Laden videotape released on Oct. 29, 2004, for his defeat in the election the following week.

Besides himself, is there anyone that John Kerry doesn’t blame for 2004? The Swiftboat veterans, “smears” by the administration, voter fraud in Ohio, and now OBL.

The problem with Black, is not that he said what he did but, rather, that he should have known that it would be twisted by Obama and his media accomplices.

landshark on June 25, 2008 at 10:10 AM

Sorry – should have added this:

The bigger problem is with McCain who should taking that ball and running with it. If he wants to be elected on national security issues he’d better start knocking these easy pitches out of the park.

landshark on June 25, 2008 at 10:15 AM

McCain should have had the stones to address the issue of why would another terrorist attack benefit anyone? As well as proceeding to define the successes of GWB/the Surge and his part in these successes…but the DA McCain is such a weaselly RINO, he cannot think outside of the box that the Left/Moron Media create for him, so he just naturally dumps on his supporter…McCain may be the most incompetent politician to run for the WH in history!

el Vaquero on June 25, 2008 at 10:22 AM

Al Qaeda’s mistake in 2004 was in thinking that America is a paper tiger, when, in fact, it depends just as much, if not moreso, on who is in the White House. I can see how the status of conditions in Iraq at the time might have given them some sense it not making a difference, but it did.

I suspect that they have learned from it.

Dusty on June 25, 2008 at 10:40 AM

I suspect that they have learned from it.

Dusty on June 25, 2008 at 10:40 AM

…and are simply biding their time until a Democrat is in the White House.

Connie on June 25, 2008 at 10:47 AM

[Limerick on June 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM]

True, but it doesn’t stop the opposition from alluding that our hawkishness is responsible for the attacks.

Dusty on June 25, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Ed, the simple answer is:

Because it’s a REPUBLICAN saying it. Can’t have honesty can we. Si se puedes!

originalpechanga on June 25, 2008 at 11:08 AM

What’s new here? A bad economy has been a Democrat Party positive for quite some time now just as national security has a Republican winner.

Wildcatter1980 on June 25, 2008 at 12:27 PM

The problem is, this can be spun as “McCain hoping for another 9/11 to rescue sagging campaign” or “Al Qaida, McCain united in goals.”

factoid on June 25, 2008 at 12:58 PM

The problem is that it is ALWAYS spun against Republicans, because the MSM is almost completely in the tank for Democrats.

Without press core “campaign donations” of distorted coverage, Democrats would probably be a “permanent minority party,” and might be fighting the Greens for their corner of the House.

THAT’S what’s maddening.

Merovign on June 25, 2008 at 1:31 PM