One of the reasons former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has such appeal for many conservatives is his ability to come up with bold ideas. One of the reasons his candidacy seemed doomed before it started is his propensity for saying them out loud. Case in point: At a 2008 book appearance, Gingrich told the crowd that “one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration” was that the more attacks they stopped, the less people felt a necessary sense of danger, adding “it’s almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us.”
Following a speech to promote his book, Days of Infamy, Gingrich was asked why the US hadn’t been hit since 9/11. He began by expressing shock that there had been no attacks, and that al Quaeda had not sent “ten or twelve sniper teams.”
“This is, by the way, the great— one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration,” Gingrich continued. “The more successful they’ve been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less proof there is that we’re in danger, and therefore, the better they’ve done at making sure there isn’t an attack, the easier it is to say ‘well, there was never gonna be an attack anyway.’ And it’s almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us.”
The line drew laughs and murmurs from the crowd (an indication of who shows up to a Newt Gingrich book appearance), and while the average lefty blogger will snarkily react with “Well, I thought the greatest tragedy of the Bush administration was the attack that did get through,” and even though partisans on the right would have no mercy in judging a Democrat who said anything like this, the kindest interpretation of this foot-in-mouth moment is that the former Speaker was making an abstract wish for vigilance. Less kind would be that he wished for an attack to gain political advantage. Worse yet would be to wish for an attack in order to gain power for the government, and to erode civil liberties.
Fortunately, Gingrich left no room for interpretation, adding “Why did we wrap so many people up? We wiretapped.”
National security hasn’t been much of an issue, intramurally, in the Republican primary race (they’ve mainly stuck to bashing President Obama), which might explain why this clip is only now surfacing. You can bet it will find its way into a general election ad or two.
Given President Obama’s far superior record of killing terrorists, Gingrich’s observation is prescient in a political sense. Because he has done such a great job of killing terrorists, the threat is no longer such that his record will benefit him. Pity the liberal (or anyone else) who wishes that were not so.
Here’s the clip, from C-Span’s Book TV:
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