No Drama?

December 29, 2009 9:51 a.m.

TPM Reader MC chimes in from the airline terminal …

I’m flying today and got to the ft. Lauderdale airport and through security in under 15 minutes. All the TSA staff are serious and doing their job efficiently and thoroughly, but noone, including passengers appears panicked or upset. I don’t think it is that we are ‘used to’ terror threats- it is a distinctly different feel that the US is doing what it needs to and not creating a fear. Its as though the president has a handle on it and is steering us straight, albeit, rough patch of water- not hyperventilating and flapping wildly. Its as though an adult is leading this country finally… and it feels good.

I would not want to publish MC’s email without noting that a lot of people, overwhelmingly but I don’t think exclusively Republicans, are seeing the same pattern but with a very different reaction. But the difference is striking.

Yes, the Bush team reflexively took every new terror incident — often just an arrest long before anything was actually planned — as a lever to juice another few percentage points in approval ratings.

But it was never just that. Even beyond the immediate political manipulation there was always a drive to push the country back into a ‘high-fear’ climate, with a presidential statements, always with some new leaked intel to dramatize the threat, even what you might call the iconography of terror — color coded threat levels and the like. (And look, the fear is grounded in reality. There were under 300 people on the plane. But it was on approach for landing, so probably over an area of concentrated population. So it’s not inconceivable the toll of dead could have approached the number that died on 9/11.)

That had a lot of political plusses for the administration, as noted. But it’s a basic mindset issue too — the idea that a climate of fear and heightened anxiety or aggression is a strength. In our office we have a World War II poster from the UK which reads “Keep Calm and Carry On“. Very mid-century British. Very Obama and not very Bush.

I’d like to think that everyone finds the difference refreshing, as MC does. But I’m not so sure. I suspect it will break down largely alone party lines — not because Republicans are reflexively hostile to Obama and Democrats the opposite, but because the different mindsets are actually what forms the basis of the partisan and ideological identification.

Latest Edblog
  • |
    October 31, 2020 10:43 a.m.

    I think there’s something to this. From TPM Reader JK … I know that this hasn’t necessarily been an active…

  • |
    October 30, 2020 3:37 p.m.

    TPM Reader TB looks to some advantages if Democrats do well on Tuesday … Thanks for your coverage of the…

  • |
    October 30, 2020 1:37 p.m.

    Looking at the totality of the polls, the big story still seems to be an essential stability. In our conversation…

Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: