9/11 Convention

Dick Morris makes a rather startling argument in his Hill op-ed, “Sept. 11 will act like a third convention for Republicans.”

This year, the Democratic convention in early August and the GOP answer at the end of the month may cancel one another out or leave one party or the other holding a key edge going into the final two months of the race. But this year, the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will likely act as if it were a third party convention, giving the Republican ticket an extra boost it would not normally receive.

In a mirror image of the Madrid bombings, the anniversary of Sept. 11 should give President Bush high marks as the nation contemplates, in gratitude, the absence of any terrorist attack during the preceding three years (knock on wood).

Even if there is another incident, the very focus on terrorism will stand Bush in good stead.

The experiences over the past two months have demonstrated the underlying truth of the observation that this is not an election between two parties, two men or even two ideologies. It is a contest between two issues. If the topic du jour is terrorism or Iraq or Afghanistan or any other variant of the threat from rogue nations or al Qaeda, then Bush benefits. *** On the other hand, if the focus is on any other issues — the economy, Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs for the elderly, the cost of medicine or the environment — Kerry will benefit.

Morris is right that, absent some sea change in attitude, an election centered on national security redounds to Bush’s benefit. The juxtaposition of the silliness and celebratory nature of a convention and the somberness of a tragic anniversary is one that makes me uncomfortable, however.

In a practical sense, too, it’s unlikely that there will be all that much coverage of the 9/11 anniversary, anyway. The first one was an event. The second one, not so much. Once the immediacy of an event is over, commemorations fade. The 5th, 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries of major events get some nostalgic coverage. Three isn’t a particularly celebrated number. My guess is the attention will be focused on the Major League penant races and the start of football season, not 9/11.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    The juxtaposition of the silliness and celebratory nature of a convention and the somberness of a tragic anniversary is one that makes me uncomfortable, however.

    I suppose I don’t have as vivid an imagination as you, James. I just read this as “here’s another thing that will provide a campaign bounce, similar to a convention.”

    I disagree with Morris on his final point, though. “Any other issue” is pretty broad, and I believe his first example, the economy, isn’t going to give Kerry much benefit. The economy is generally quite sound, and improving, and there aren’t enough “soft spots” to hurt the President very much.

    To me, it seems as though there are really only two political topics the country is concerned about these days: the War on Terrorism and the economy. Nothing else seems to be getting much traction these days.

  2. Steven says:

    I take excpetion with the idea that the economy necessarily redounds to Kerry’s benefit–consumer confidence is up, we appear to be adding jobs and, on balance, the economy is healthy.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I think it benefits Kerry mainly in the sense that it means the focus isn’t security. And it’s easier to make the bad economy argument. X number of lost jobs and all that.