Many Americans are unemployed and until the economy improves, their minds will be more focused on paying bills than foreign affairs. Pew has a recent ranking that places terrorism in third place behind the economy and jobs. The ranking of the top three remain unchanged from 2009, despite a four point boost to terrorism, and will continue to remain unchanged until unemployment goes down dramatically. You really can just look at Gallup’s daily tracker on the economy to see why it’s on everyone’s mind: the economy blows.
It isn’t logical to think that (heaven forbid another attack) we’ll be talking about terrorism as much as the economy this fall. I don’t know what Mr. Ailes was smoking when he ranked terrorism above the economy on This Week, but it was probably gold plated and encrusted with diamonds. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Ailes is a millionaire.
Ailes made $23,683,140.00 in 2009. He’s one of those people who has remained insulated during this economic downturn, and thus can say and actually believe that terrorism would be the utmost priority at the moment. Mr. Ailes is still a human being after all (?) and maybe this is just his hierarchy. He’s a rich Republican, which puts him in the same category with all those other Republicans that have the same hierarchy – according to Pew. He’s also the mastermind behind Fox News, which would be ample incentive for going on This Week and saying the things he said. It almost seemed like a rare miss for him. I mean, the President is vulnerable on so many things, why would you go after something that he’s actually the least vulnerable on. Then again, Machiavelli would agree with Ailes. Either way he was riffing on the traditional Bush Doctrine talking points that he peddles everywhere he goes these days. Fox’s ratings are up as usual, they remain in the number one slot, and now they are the most trusted name in news. It is a wonder Mr. Ailes puts the war on terrorism ahead of economic recovery.
3. Obama’s approval ratings on terrorism are better than the economy, healthcare, and a bunch of other stuff that he is far more vulnerable on.
In fact an older Gallup poll would have you believe that “…the level of public fear of terrorism today remains about average for the post-9/11 period…” But, it should be noted that the same poll also shows that American don’t think the President’s new anti-terror initiatives go far enough. Despite this belief, another Gallup poll from the same time period will tell you that 49% of American’s approve of the way he’s handling terrorism. Pew paints an even rosier picture giving the President 51% approval on terrorism, his highest approval on any issue. The same poll will also tell you that his marks on both Iraq and Afghanistan, while still sub 50%, jumped by large margins from November to January.
It doesn’t really matter how you slice it, Mr. Ailes is blatantly incorrect in his characterization of the public mood. Then again he was asked what he thinks is the top priority, but he went on to offer no reason why it should be placed above the economy. It’s hard to reconcile his comments with the evidence that this is not only Obama’s strongest issue right now, but also the issue that Republicans give him the highest marks on. National Security doesn’t really need to be a partisan issue, and Mr. Ailes should stop using it as something on which to increase profits. All these calculations and political tactics don’t actually help improve national security, and often tend to do far more harm than good. Maybe if we could get past the politics of it, we could have a serious debate about how to actually tackle the issue of terrorism, how terrorist should be ethically treated, and how we can decrease the amount of people who hate our guts around the world.