MSNBC's Joe Scarborough baselessly claimed that "[s]ome Democrats" are "suggesting" that the recently foiled British terror plot "was just some ploy by the Republicans and the president and Tony Blair's government to justify their actions in the war on terror." In fact, Media Matters found no examples of Democrats questioning the veracity of the terror plot.
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On the August 11 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough baselessly claimed that "[s]ome Democrats" are "suggesting" that the recently foiled British terror plot "was just some ploy by the Republicans and the president and [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair's government to justify their actions in the war on terror." Scarborough did not cite any examples to back up his claim. In fact, while Democrats have asserted that the plot demonstrates that the Bush administration must do more to prepare the nation against the threat of a terrorist attack and have, as Scarborough himself noted, criticized the administration for "trying to use this terror attack for political purposes," Media Matters for America found* no examples of Democrats questioning the veracity of the terror plot.
Below are some media accounts of Democratic criticism of the Bush administration in the wake of the foiled terror plot:
- From an August 12 Associated Press article:
Democrats also said the plot again demonstrated that the United States is at war against dangerous extremists. But in a pointed critique that shows terrorism is still at the top of the debate in this election year, Democrats said the Bush administration is not doing a good enough job protecting Americans.
''My fellow Democrats and I believe our government must do more to protect Americans at home and around the world,'' Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor said in Saturday's Democratic radio address. ''We also understand there is no time to waste. Five years after 9/11, our country is not as safe as it needs to be or should be. More needs to be done.''
- From an August 14 Associated Press article:
Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, the anti-war candidate who toppled Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary last week, said he was surprised by Lieberman's and Vice President Dick Cheney's claims that his views on Iraq could embolden terrorists.
"My God, here we have a terrorist threat against hearth and home, and the very first thing that comes out of their mind is how can we turn this to partisan advantage. I find that offensive,'' Lamont said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press.
- From an August 12 article in the Los Angeles Times:
Two years after President Bush won reelection having painted his opponent as soft on terrorists and weak on national security, Democrats have seized on the latest alleged terrorism plot in hopes of turning the political tables on the White House.
Their aggressive stance was evident hours after British authorities announced they had disrupted a plot to blow up airplanes: Leading Democrats blamed the terrorism threat on "mismanagement" by the Bush administration and charged that the Iraq war had become a "rallying cry" for the enemy.
On Friday, Democrats continued with a series of sharp statements accusing the White House of exploiting the case for political gain.
The new strategy, spearheaded largely by the Senate Democratic leadership, is a direct response to surveys showing that Republicans hold only a marginal lead over Democrats when voters are asked whom they trust to keep the country safer.
"During the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans tried to sow fear in the American public by claiming that they were the only ones who could keep America safe," [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)] wrote. "This from the same crowd that has driven Iraq to the brink of disaster, left Osama bin Laden on the loose to attack again, and continues to ignore our security needs at home. Ask any foreign policy pro, and they'll tell you we're less safe now than we were five years ago -- and that the Bush crowd is largely responsible."
- From an August 11 article in The New York Times:
On Capitol Hill and in states where Republicans are facing tough re-election battles, party officials applauded the arrests by the British authorities as evidence of the administration's policies in fighting terrorism, and suggested that Americans might take a cue from the tougher antiterrorism statutes Britain has enacted. In line with their efforts to keep the election from being a referendum on Mr. Bush and instead make it a choice between two distinct approaches to national security and other issues, they used the arrests to portray Democrats as weak.
But in a sign of how this campaign might be different, Democrats struck a tone notably different from the elections of 2004 and 2002, when for the most part their strategy was to try to turn the subject away from national security. This time, Democrats attacked Republicans as failing to improve airline security and, most of all, argued that the decision to invade Iraq had been a distraction that depleted United States resources and allowed the world to become more dangerous.
"The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the war against international terrorism, or very little to do with the war on terrorism," said James Webb, a former Reagan administration official running as a Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia. "It has distracted our attention, it has pulled our forces in, and we are now in a situation where we have 135,000 on the ground, which affects our ability to do a lot of things that we would be able to do otherwise."
Mr. Webb said one of his main tasks in trying to unseat Senator George Allen, a Republican, was to try to disentangle Iraq from the war on terrorism. "They have tried to keep it together -- they have to make it one in people's minds in order to cover the strategic error of Iraq," he said in an interview.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said, "This latest plot demonstrates the need for the Bush administration and the Congress to change course in Iraq and ensure that we are taking all the steps necessary to protect Americans at home and across the world."
Media Matters found that the timing of the release of information regarding the plot has been questioned by some progressive bloggers (for example, see here), but not by elected Democrats.
From the August 11 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Now, thousands -- I had said 2,500, some estimate as many as 4,000 lives, were targeted by these Muslim terror suspects, who were not from Pakistan or Iran or Iraq, but ominously, as you heard from Lisa, from England. Now, I spoke to Congressman Pete King of New York, who's also the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, to talk about the terror and the bloodshed that America and London just barely avoided.
[begin video clip]
KING: This was an extremely serious threat, as serious as any that's faced the United States. If this had been carried to fruition, the death toll could have been greater than September 11th. Now, this was -- in scope, it was absolutely horrific. And also, it was operational. I mean, they were ready to go on that day. Now, they may not have done it for several more days or several weeks, but they were ready to go.
SCARBOROUGH: Some Democrats, and also commentators, political commentators, and talk show hosts, are skeptical, suggesting that maybe that this was just some ploy by the Republicans and the president and Tony Blair's government to justify their actions in the war on terror. How do you respond to that?
KING: Joe, that is absolutely disgraceful. Thousands of American lives were saved because of action by the United States and Britain. These are murderers out to get us, and any Democrat who wants to attack the United States rather than point the finger at the terrorists who are trying to murder us -- really, they disgrace themselves, their office, and their party.
SCARBOROUGH: And of course, Democrats are very angry. They're angry for a few reasons. First of all, Dick Cheney yesterday, after this plot came out, actually said that Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut somehow would help the terrorists. And so Democrats obviously took great offense at that. Also, soon after the terror attack plot was revealed, you had the Republican National Committee sending out fundraising emails, in effect talking about the terror plot, talking about winning the war on terror. And again, it upset the Democrats and I think probably upset a lot of people in middle America, too, because it looks like you're trying to use this terror attack for political purposes.
Hillary Clinton -- I mean, Hillary Clinton even came out and said she would never take Dick Cheney seriously again. So unfortunately, here we are at a time of war, a time when we're fighting for our lives, and our politicians can't even get together and work to keep us safe.
* Lexis/Nexis search in "All News" for August 9 through August 14, 2006, using terms: "brit! /10 terror! and democrat! /10 (plot or ploy or terror! or politic!)"