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Christie’s Failed Fear-mongering

Jonathan Tobin is annoyed that some prominent conservatives have objected Christie’s national security demagoguery:

But the willingness of some members of the conservative establishment to come to Paul’s defense after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took him to task is a disturbing sign of the crackup of a generations-old Republican consensus on foreign and defense policy [bold mine-DL]. George Will’s brush back of Christie wasn’t surprising, as he has always been a critic of post-9/11 American foreign and defense policy. But Peggy Noonan’s attack on Christie in the Wall Street Journal removes all doubt that some of veteran members of the GOP’s chattering class are headed off the reservation.

Whatever consensus there was in the GOP in favor of post-9/11 surveillance measures, it certainly wasn’t “generations-old.” That consensus is gradually breaking down because the fear-mongering arguments used in its defense no longer have their intended effect. Instead of inspiring fear and deference as they once did, they invite mockery and rebuttals. Christie’s remarks last month weren’t persuasive, but they also weren’t intimidating, which is what any successful attempt at fear-mongering ought to be.

More Republicans are probably headed “off the reservation” on this issue and others like it because they are tired of having their intelligence insulted by those that invoke past terrorist attacks in order to shut down any serious criticism of government policies. That seems to be what irked Noonan the most. She wrote:

And Christie’s argument wasn’t even…an argument. It was a manipulation. If you don’t see it his way you don’t know what 9/11 was—you weren’t there, you don’t know how people suffered. If you don’t see it his way you don’t care about the feelings of the widows and orphans.

It seems to me telling that he either doesn’t have a logical argument or doesn’t think he has to make it [bold mine-DL].

Noonan reacted most negatively to Christie’s demagogic use of 9/11 as a bludgeon. This was a tactic that the Bush administration and its allies used on many occasions over the years with regrettable success, but it is now one that tends to repel and anger people more than it intimidates them into conformity.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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