Election Delay Backlash

The blogosphere is, once again, a couple days ahead of the curve:

Washington TimesA loud ‘no’ to delaying the election

A suggestion that terrorism might delay the November election raised loud cries of “no” yesterday from both Republicans and Democrats. The chairman of the House committee that oversees federal election law said devising a plan to postpone the Nov. 2 presidential election in case of a terrorist attack creates “serious and complex” constitutional problems. “In the aftermath of September 11, we need to prepare for contingency plans for various situations,” said Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Committee on House Administration, “but I have very serious concerns about giving one federal official or even a particular federal body the power to postpone or cancel a national election. Such a proposal would involve very serious and complex issues, many of which I do not think are even yet known. I would, however, be extremely hesitant to endorse such a proposal, especially at this early juncture.”

Well, better early than late. As we saw in 2000, trying to change the rules of elections after the election is much more problematic.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California, Democrat criticized any effort to postpone the election. “The Department of Homeland Security should not instill fear or inject uncertainty into the election,” she said. “If Bush administration officials have any evidence that would warrant considering postponing the election, they should immediately share it with the Congress. Otherwise, they should disavow this fear-mongering. Instead of focusing on changing the date of the election, the Department of Homeland Security should focus on reducing the risk of an attack.”

Brilliant. Absolutely f*ing brilliant.

This is contingency planning. Trying to think ahead. “What if?” scenarios.

Al Qaeda doesn’t share their plans with the Bush administration. The evidence that something might happen is that 1) there have been numerous terrorist attacks on U.S. soil by jihadists; 2) some jihadists are still alive; 3) Spain.

As to the proper role of DHS, I’d note that Israel–which is the approximate size of Teresa Heinz Kerry’s summer home–can’t manage to stop every terrorist attack despite markedly higher security levels and the best security forces on the planet. The United States is just a wee bit larger and more open. You do the math.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Dude, if ya let Pelosi get to you, your blood pressure will be in the stratosphere.

    I figured out how the Dems pick their leadership.

    They pick the people that can say the most inane things while making them sound vaguely sinister.

  2. jen says:

    Honestly, I don’t understand how Pelosi got to be minority leader. She doesn’t seem that bright.

    She must really get to you, James. The f-word? That’s so unlike you… 😉

  3. Meezer says:

    What’s really making this fun is that if there is an attack on or about the election time, where will it happen? Conservative Hebron, IN, pop. 7,000 or New York, blue as blue and population something skillion or other? So it’s like the left goes, “Stop!! Stop, evil Republicans!….oh, wait….”

  4. dw says:

    OK, so let me put it to you this way.

    Two realities.

    1. On November 1, Al-Queda blows up two NYC-Washington Acela trains, killing 250. Dubya announces that the national elections will be postponed a week.

    2. On November 1, hurricane Lisa, a surprisingly late-season category 5 storm, plows ashore in Jacksonville, Florida, killing 50 and leaving a million-plus people from Titusville to Jacksonville and 50 miles into the interior homeless. Dubya announces that due to the magnitude of the destruction in Georgia and Florida the national elections will be postponed a week.

    Q1. Agree with both decisions or no?
    Q2. Of the two, which one makes the most sense to delay the elections for?

    I’m just wondering. We’ve had major flooding in local areas on election days before, but it’s usually a local decision to delay the election. What if it were a national decision?

  5. Joseph Marshall says:

    I hold no brief for encouraging anyone’s paranoid fantasies about what either the Bush Administration or the Islamic terrorists MIGHT be doing. But I would like to see a little more progress in establishing what both of them ARE doing.

    This will take some work. Both parties are quite shy about divulging such details.

    But, at least in the case of the terrorists, I think that working on it will be far more effective than the constant groundless “alerts” and “contingency plans” we have been plagued with for three years now.

    Only a fool tries to plan for every contingency. A wise man gets some information and makes some judgements about what contingencies are realistic and plans, if need be, for that.

    I say “if need be” because if we really knew what, realisticly, might be done, then we could probably stop it and not have to elaborately overplan for not stopping it.

    But the fact that we do not know, does not make trying to plan for every possible contingency (they are infinite), and making a C.Y.A. alert announcement with every bump in the cell phone traffic from Morocco to the Phillipines, any less folly.

    What we are actually getting is terrorist preparation by this sort of “traffic analysis”–a fact which merely demonstrates the softening of the head of everyone here in America. Oh, pardon me, I should call it a “failure of intelligence”.

    The realistic contingency in the case we are looking at is this: one attack in some specific location, probably Washington, with a nuclear weapon.

    No chemical attack, no “dirty bomb”, no biological attack, no rogue airliner, and no use of conventional explosive is likely to have a broad impact on our electoral process if we take the security precautions that have now become routine.

    It would take kiloton size explosive power placed probably in only one location, Washington, to make the planning proposed even remotely necessary.

    In such a contingency, I think preventing the attack is a far wiser use of resources than planning not to prevent it, particularly since terrorists who tried it would face many incredible obstacles–it’s a whole lot different than sneaking your box cutters aboard a relatively unguarded airplane.

    So, yeah, having Homeland Security focus on reducing the risk of attack rather than planning for not stopping the attack sounds sensible to me.

  6. Jim says:

    I would agree that contingency planning is a decent idea. I also believe that only a truely catrostrophic attack should postpone elections. How does this sound for a basic proposal: a majority of the supreme court with the unaminous approval of the majority and minority leaders of the senate and house with an exception if these leaders are amoung the victims. A standard like that would have to be a non-partisian decision endorsed by the courts.

  7. Attila Girl says:

    Hell, if it were up to me the protocol for State of the Union addresses would be radically altered: the custom of having only one cabinet member sit it out seems woefully inadequate.

    Also, there needs to be more planning on what we might do if Congress were hit while it was in session and we lost a lot of reps at once.

  8. L-Shuffle says:

    No, James. Making the plan is the contingency. Announcing it is another Bush scare tactic. Actually, announcing this one makes some sense as a deterrent. Too bad it sounds like just another publicity stunt by the administration can’t help but pour gas on the fire.

    Attila Girl, a little troubled by your concern for the Bush cabinet and the Republican-led Congress and not the rest of us.

    Meezer, did you really use the word “fun” in pondering an attack on New York? You should be ashamed. Try using that word the next time you talk to someone who lost a family member in New York on 9-11. It’s all a game to you guys, isn’t it?

  9. nepas says:

    saw that word too in weezer’s post. what did you expect. guess it never occurred to him that they were real people who died not pawns in bush’s game of bodies for oil.

  10. Liz says:

    I live in northern New Jersey and I work in downtown Manhattan and my husband and I lost 19 professional associates and friends, including my husband’s best friend since the 2nd grade. I can’t tell you how outraged I am by some of these comments. There’s nothing fun about terrorists attacks and nothing funny about the threat we live with everyday. Everytime the Bush Administration uses 9/11/01 to try to score political points we go through the pain and suffering all over again. Weezer, you suggest that we “blue state” people ought to have more regard for President Bush. The fact that we don’t, we who live in harm’s way and who pass that hole in the ground where the World Trade Center once stood, should tell you something. His policies are NOT designed to protect us. We know that and that is why we will NOT support him. I wish you and all your friends who think this is so funny could spend one day in our shoes. You would then know why those “alerts” are meaningless and why this President knows absolutely NOTHING about our pain.

    Shannon, this is for you. God bless you.

  11. nepas says:

    and the terrorism continued this morning with ridge, mclaughlin, and kerik on cnn. more scare tactics and no solutions or recomendations. anything to distract us from bush’s bumbling.