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Has the terror threat really gone away?

Justin Webb | 02:57 UK time, Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Washington DC: Speaking minutes after his political demise, Rudy Giuliani told his supporters that terrorism "is there, it is a reality - we cannot wish it away". And yet the extraordinary fact is that the people of Florida appear to think it has gone away, a view that suggests to me a lack of consistency or logic on behalf of the electors.

The AP story on their exit poll said: "Given four choices, nearly half of Florida Republican primary voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country. Terrorism was picked by two in 10 voters, while immigration and Iraq were picked by relatively few."

Two out of ten???? What planet are the others on? If you thought terrorism was a threat a year ago how can you not believe it still is? What has changed? Interesting: and surely a debate for the general election.

Mitt Romney's speeches are getting odder: did he really say it was "time for the politicians to leave Washington and the citizens to take over"? Politicians are representatives of citizens, are they not? So the citizens taking over would be, umm, politicians.

Interesting that Governor Romney praised George W Bush during his speech (for keeping America safe). The exit polls suggest Republicans who still like Bush tended to vote for Romney, but this is surely not a winning constituency.

I heard Wolf Blitzer on CNN announce the arrival of John McCain "and his wife Sidney" at their campaign HQ - before correcting himself. Now that would have been a story...

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:51 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Leigh wrote:

Money talks. It is just that simple.

If the economy was doing better, terrorism would probably be the main focus.

I don't believe most people believe terrorism has "gone away." Instead, I believe they don't see it as quite the immediate threat it was. These days, the more immediate threat to most Americans is the faltering economy.

As far as Mitt Romney delivering odd speeches goes ... What do you expect? He always has been one to say whatever he believes people want to hear. Do that often enough, and you start confusing yourself, not to mention everyone else.

People who voted for George Bush support Romney, you say? Well, that is just one more reason to stay the heck away from Romney.

  • 2.
  • At 03:53 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Leigh wrote:

Money talks. It is just that simple.

If the economy was doing better, terrorism would probably be the main focus.

I don't believe most people believe terrorism has "gone away." Instead, I believe they don't see it as quite the immediate threat it was. These days, the more immediate threat to most Americans is the faltering economy.

As far as Mitt Romney delivering odd speeches goes ... What do you expect? He always has been one to say whatever he believes people want to hear. Do that often enough, and you start confusing yourself, not to mention everyone else.

People who voted for George Bush support Romney, you say? Well, that is just one more reason to stay the heck away from Romney.

  • 3.
  • At 03:54 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • wtmgeo wrote:

The world should take heart in John McCain's victory. This is because he will see to it that America has vengeance for our dead by destroying the Al Qaeda leadership. When he says that he will follow them to the gates of hell, he speaks of a path that he has the strength and knowledge to follow. Under John McCain's leadership America will defeat those who attacked us on 9/11, thus eliminating the scourge of extremism in the Islamic world. The day that he enters the White House will be a black day for our enemies, and the beginning of a long peace in which liberty will triumph on this earth.

  • 4.
  • At 04:54 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

It's the economy stupid.!!

  • 5.
  • At 05:22 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Simon wrote:

The question was what is the most important issue facing the country, and the overwhelming resonse was the economy. Concerns about terrorism have not disappeared, that concern is significantly less important now. What has changed is that in the last year the subprime market has collapsed, foreclosures are up 70%, notices of foreclosures are up 79%, housing sales are down 2%, new construction is down, gasoline is higher thsn ever, milk is nearly $4 a gallon, median real wages are lower, health care continues to rise in cost,the cost of education is up another 15-20%, there have been no net new jobs since 2001 the direct cost of Iraq/Afghanistan will reach $700 billion by 2009 and the national debt to GDP ratio will reach 70% by 2009. That is the planet that Floridians and everyone else is on.

  • 6.
  • At 09:17 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Heather wrote:

"Two out of ten???? What planet are the others on? If you thought terrorism was a threat a year ago how can you not believe it still is?"

Justin, who are you arguing against? I'm sure the other 8 out of 10 don't think terrorism is no longer a threat. I, for one, am happy to see that the public sees the difference in their relative destructive potential.

  • 7.
  • At 10:02 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I can't speculate as to why people think terrorism has 'gone away'. Maybe it was never really there. Contrast the number killed on 11/9/2001 with the number killed by lack of affordable healthcare and by poverty/drugs/crime.

I think Floridians are showing proper perspective and a balanced, circumspect view of what constitutes 'quality of life'. And the Daily Mail in Britain will be shocked to hear that inward migration is not that big a deal..

As someone once said 'We have nothing to fear, but fear itself'..Now wasn't that guy an American, or something ?...

  • 8.
  • At 10:19 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Mary Clarke wrote:

I think we should fear the success of John McCain. Surely this is the man who was one of the first to give his support to the Iraq War. His present pronouncements show that he is ready to keep the US on a continuous war footing and will probably lead to an attack on Iran if he manages to secure the presidency. Have the Americans learnt nothing from the Bush era, that so many yearn to have a man like McCain leading them? If he should gain a strong foothold which leads to the White House, this will prove that the message of "change" has not been heard by the American voters. We must just hope and pray that Hillary or Obama gain the necessary momentum to ensure that McCain never reaches the seat of power.

  • 9.
  • At 10:23 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Why would terrorism be a bigger issue than the economy? The economy going into recession will affect every American in most parts of their daily life.

By contrast when was the last terrorist attack on the US? 9/11 was either a fluke OR the security services have now got the job in hand and are foiling lots of plots.

And even if there is another attack, while terrorism is awful for those affected the reality is that (short of WMD) terrorism is statistically a very remote danger to most people. I speak as one who grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles

  • 10.
  • At 11:39 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • David Howell wrote:

This actually very neatly summed up McCain's success.

Terrorism was the issue, still is big, but the economy is the immediate concern. Certainly, those two were the big ones - ahead of immigration and Iraq - and that played right into McCain's hands, for he is seen as a trusty Commander-in-Chief on both the economy and terrorism while having unpopular (at least within the party faithful) views on Iraq and immigration.

We'll see if Florida is representative of the rest of the country soon enough, but I think it will be in that instance.

  • 11.
  • At 12:16 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • C. Patrick wrote:

>>>Under John McCain's leadership America will defeat those who attacked us on 9/11, thus eliminating the scourge of extremism in the Islamic world.

Number 2: Do you really believe that?
I mean, really?
Hasn't pretty much all of our experience shown that, though our efforts - as they would be undertaken by McCain, in more ways than I can count a very honorable man - might succeed in knocking off a terrorist or two (or thousands, or, liberally, hundreds of thousands), the main result ends up being that those around whom your working feel aliened which in turn breeds more young men and women willing to become terrorists?
It makes one think that the story of the Hydra's really a parable for direct confrontation with a counterinsurgency, eh?
And I'm not some wooly-headed goofball just spouting off: I believe that a military, and military action, are necessary, even necessary to some extent when used in this current cause, but simply "extracting vengeance" will hardly get the job done (that is, make us more safe) in this case.
The world is a much more nuanced place than that.


I completely agree with the previous poster Simon, except perhaps to say that some might quibble with the statement that "no new jobs have been created". Not me. I mean, I don't have the statistics, you could be right; but I hear pundits continually trumpeting the "creation of new jobs".
I do know, however, that it seems that most of those jobs seem to be relatively low quality/low paying. Just take a look at most lists for the ten fastest growing jobs in the US - I'll wager that you find "home health care worker" and "retail sales clerk" on them. I challenge anyone to make a enough to really live, let alone support a family, live in good housing (let alone buy a house), or afford decent and comprehensive medical care while working in those professions.

  • 12.
  • At 01:51 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Lisa wrote:

I wonder---are we Americans capable of focusing on more than one issue/problem at a time? And are we Americans so blindly led by the media news that we choose the lazy route and never investigate any circumspect information fed through the television?
Justin suggests that Americans might believe the threat of terrorism is gone, or at least diminished, and that the economy has now taken over on the list of "Armageddon" things to worry about. Is this true? Seven years of peace on our shores and the threat just disappeared like a slain fairy tale monster? Are we that naive---or at the very least that gullibly blind?
Sometimes I wonder if our nation is one large Attention Deficit Child. On the issue of the econoomy, the media tells us the numbers are so bad that recession is all but a certainty. REALLY! Then someone tell me, if the US economy is truly in the tank, if we Americans are suffering such financial severity, then WHY are Americans continuing to spend money (real and credit cards) to a degree that suggests no one has curbed their excesses or is in a financial pinch? Gas prices are high. Yet we all go the pump, complain about the price, then fill and pay as usual. No one is cutting back on their driving---look at the roadways! The price of milk has been suggested as some sort of harbinger of misery. Give me a break! I've lived in Wisconsin and know full well that milk prices are controlled with subsidies. States with farm subsidies pay a higher price for those goods. If those of you w/o subsidies in your states are experiencing increases in milk prices, welcome to our world! You've finally caught up.
The housing market is but one small sector of our economy, and yet it is being touted as THE economic indicator of all that is wrong with America. Foreclosures are up, but at what point do we look to the evidence of responsibility and see ourselves? For years we've purchased homes beyond our spending means, and anyone who took the gambler's chance with adjustable rate mortgages or interest only loans was playing with fire.
The media suggests that unemployment and inflation are near panic levels. Again, really? In the 90's, 5% for both suggested that Clinton was doing a superior job. We are in an election year people--wake up! It's standard issue for the candidates to drag their hang-dog faces in front of cameras to suggest that America is falling apart on all fronts. It happens every time!
And on the subject of inflation---whose numbers are you looking at? Traditional economists don't factor in prices of oil and food because the markets are so volatile. The media however, touts the inflation numbers to include the prices of oil and food, and Americans blindly take the news as gospel, thereby "God help us all---Inflation is out of control!".
How did we Americans become so blindly trusting of information we have not individually investigated on our own? We don't trust the government, nor politicians, and yet a candidate stops in one of our states, gives a pretty speech with a few one liners and we're ready to follow like stupid sheep. McCain lies about Romney wanting a timetable to withdraw the troops (distorting the message content) and the nation is abuzz that Romney is practically a democrat! Think back to Clinton v Dole, when Clinton went to Florida and told senior citizens that Dole was coming to take away all of their social security benefits---and, incomprehensibly, seniors believed it!
Illegal immigration is an issue that has Americans hopping mad---or did until the media bleated about how "bad" the economy is. Just wait until spring and summer when the migrant workers pour back into the agricultural fields. You can bet that any economic "woes" will be tabled and illegal immigration will be---again---front page news. Again, sheep being fed and blindly led toward what they should be focusing upon.
I'm not a democrat, but I have to give them credit for at least raising the issue of college education. It's a ridiculous entitlement system that rewards unwed teenage mothers, yet bankrupts the rest of us who make above 50k a year and are told we're too rich for assistance. The cost is out of control, yet the issue just doesn't seem to be able to make the mental radar of most Americans who seem incapable of juggling more than one issue at a time.
It's time that we investigate what we are being told. No more excuses that we are too busy, our lives to hectic. If we choose to blindly follow what is being reported w/o checking facts, we lose the credibility to complain about those issues.
Terrorism is still a real threat. Check out any Islamic militant website for their statements of purpose if you are in doubt.
The economy is a concern, however it is not as if the sky is falling.
More importantly, American voters should be able to juggle these issues at the same time with a little time and reasoned intellect.
The next time the media news tells you what your most fearsome concern is, how about taking a moment to analyze the content of the message and weighing the substance for facts? Americans are intelligent people---we SHOULD be able to this.

  • 13.
  • At 01:54 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

The terror threat hasn't gone away, but the terrorists are cowering and running for their cowardly lives, thanks to President Bush.

  • 14.
  • At 01:54 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Ray wrote:

Terror threat was overhyped to begin with... More likely to die in car crash etc...

The economy is the big issue at the moment- although ironically the U.S. President, whoever it is, won't have nearly as much influence as the public think.

  • 15.
  • At 02:52 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Saif Ur-Rehman wrote:


How much more vengeance does America need?

  • 16.
  • At 05:29 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • bill isenberger wrote:

In every presidential election since I can remember, domestic and economic issues have always been at the forefront with voters. Inevitably, however, it is foreign policy that brings about the most challenges for an elected leader, and, in some cases (i.e. Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush) their ineffectiveness at foreign affairs is what they have, and will be judged.

What has changed?

And I thought you were all about the wonder of how Americans involve themselves in their democracy. Perhaps they have done some thinking and reassessing.

The comments above about the economy may be right, but I'm going with the idea that they revised their opinion of the truthfulness of the Bush Administration.

The so-called "War on Terror" which the head monkeys are conducting is not what folks think it is.

Not that they exactly lie - you just don't hear what they are telling you.

What we have is a "War on Terra".

Think about it ...

  • 19.
  • At 08:59 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • DB wrote:

The American media are so totally in love with John McCain that they slip up and use his middle name of Sidney to refer to his wife, "Cindy."

That's my explanation of Blitzer's slip-up and I think it's a pretty good one. The extent to which the mainstream journos in this country fawn over McCain is quite unbelievable.

  • 20.
  • At 09:12 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Mark Jones wrote:

Terrorism is only as real as you guys ramp it up to be in the media.

The US must take Ron Paul's approach, it would be solved far quicker than where these endless wars get us.

  • 21.
  • At 10:31 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Jim H. wrote:

The demise of terrorism as newsworthy in the U.S. will last only until the next sensationalist occurrence. Then President Bush and the other neocons will seize upon the opportunity to expand their agendas further to restrict domestic freedoms and launch imperialistic wars. Many of the news media again will lead the charge to press the panic button. Some results will be to divert attention away from the problems of the economy, the assault against the middle class, the rule of the country by corporations, the multifaceted costs of the wars we are engaged in, the increased hatred of the U.S. abroad, the loss of skilled jobs to other countries, the immigration problems resulting from NAFTA, the rising food prices caused by energy bill mandates and policies such as increased corn-into-ethanol production - the list is virtually endless.

  • 22.
  • At 05:14 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Americans ignore the dire peril they are in at the hands of both al Quaeda and Iran at their own peril. People get the government they deserve. If they elect a government that fails to protect the nation, they will suffer the consequences. If they do not understand that a major attack will change the basic nature of American society forever, then they are blind. Neither al Qaeda nor Iran can destroy the American nation but they can bring an end to its Constitutional democracy. What replaces it will be far more sinister. The US will survive but what kind of US will it be? The lack of support for US security concerns around the world such as in the Security Council fiasco in 2003 do not bode will for the way a future America will treat the rest of the world. In many ways including those not even understood by most, the US is by far the most dangerous nation on earth. Those who toy with it, think they have a special relation which can never change, cite historical accounts from their own perspective and think that they will always somehow be in America's good graces are also making a big mistake. Last week the US economy sneezed with the possibility of a recession later this year and financial markets around the world were blown around as in a hurricane. The world could change in a nuclear heartbeat in a way that it will never be the same. Those jealous midget nations in Europe should think long and hard about it. From my personal point of view, I don't see events, trends, relationships of the relatively recent past continuing on much longer anyway. There are forces at work which make them very unstable. I think we are in for big changes in the not too distant future. They will come as a shock and a surprise when they happen but in retrospect, they will be seen to have been inevitable by future historians...if there are any left around to write an account of these times.

  • 23.
  • At 10:04 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Greta wrote:

Americans aren't as dumb as you think, Justin. We're FAR more afraid of our government and police than terrorists.

Have you seen this video? You were just in Ohio; good thing you kept on goin'.
Crime VICTIM strip-searched and held naked in cell for 6 hours

  • 24.
  • At 12:42 PM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • anne witter wrote:

If terrorism is the art of creating fear, then that has been, in large part, successfully accomplished. By focussing on the economy, all eyes right and hey ho, 'terrorism' takes a back seat. But the two have something in common I believe. In so far as they may actually put perspective back into people's lives, giving momentum to a self-correcting (and perhaps self-fulfilling) mechanism of awakening from the narcissus that can be America. The looking glass has cracked?

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