Perino: Politicize National Security? Never! What?

Former-Bush-spokesperson/forever-Bush-flack Dana Perino made a pretty startling claim last night on Hannity in the course of questioning the Obama administration’s avoidance of the term “terrorism” in reference to the Fort Hood murders:

PERINO: There is one thing that I would say about Fort Hood that I feel very strongly about, which is — and I don’t say this to be political — I think it matters a lot what we call it. And we had a terrorist attack on our country. And we should call it what it is because we need to face up to it so that we can prevent it from happening again.

HANNITY: I agree with you. And you know, why won’t they [the Obama administration] say what you just so simply said?

PERINO: It’s — they want to do all of their investigations, I don’t know all of their thinking that goes into it, but, you know, we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during president Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think that we owe it to the American people to call it what it is.

The decision whether or not to call an act of violence “terrorism” — which is, after all, defined as the use of violence against civilians in the pursuit of a political goal — is inextricably bound up with politics. Though I tend to lean toward “yes,” I think there are real questions as to whether Nidal Hassan’s shooting spree qualifies as terrorism. Those who think there aren’t tend to be die-hard “war on terror” types interested in marketing a particular (and politically advantageous to conservatives) conception of an undifferentiated Islamic threat.


Obviously, a former Bush official waxing sanctimonious about the politicization of national security is, to say the least, bold. It’s a matter of public record that the Bush administration was exploring ways to exploit 9/11 for political ends literally before the fires had been doused at Ground Zero.

As to Perino’s claim of “no terrorist attacks under Bush,” one of the main Bush legacy talking points handed out to administration officials as Bush was leaving office was “No terrorist attacks… since 2001!” Maybe Perino just forgot to mention that last part. Or perhaps Perino has gotten so used to insisting that the administration she served actually had an effective strategy for fighting terrorism that she’s simply come to believe that the attacks took place before Bush’s presidency began.

Another side of this, though involves effort, thus far unsuccessful, by some conservatives to cast Fort Hood if not exactly as “Obama’s 9/11,” (which would be ridiculous on its face) then at least as a “terrorist attack” sufficient for their purposes of attacking Obama’s response to the shooting as insufficient, and his broader counter-terrorism approach as ineffective. A Google search of “Fort Hood, Obama, Pet Goat” turns up quite a bit, none of it making much sense, but revealing nonetheless the continuing conservative shame at President Bush’s response to the September 11 attacks, and a deep desire to believe that President Obama’s response to tragedy was just as bad, if not worse, than Bush’s.

Conservatives have been telegraphing this tactic for while. As far back as January 2009, Robert Robb complained in the Arizona Republic that “Bush has been given remarkably little credit or appreciation for the fact that there has not been a domestic terrorist attack since 9/11,” but went on: “If, however, there were to be a terrorist attack during Barack Obama’s watch, the public’s view of Bush would spin on a dime.” It should be pretty obvious that Perino and others are trying to use Fort Hood to change the public’s view.