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Fear Factor

The ideologues in Washington are scaring Americans.

9:55 AM, Jan 14, 2010 • By GARY ANDRES
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The candidate of hope and change has now become a president of fear and doubt. This is hampering the economy and the American people's sense of security.

Fear Factor

The fear factor manifests itself in several ways. Consider what was formerly known as the “war on terror.” Whatever the president wants to call it these days, we’re losing. This is a scary thought.  It’s deeply frightening when an al-Qaeda operative nearly blows up an airliner filled with American citizens, over an American city. Yet when that same terrorist gets treated like someone who just robbed a bank, the people's fear becomes widespread doubt – skepticism emerges about this administration’s capacity and commitment to protect its people.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a terrorist and enemy combatant, not a common criminal. He should not enjoy the constitutional protections belonging to American citizens. Period. Allowing the military to hold and interrogate him could have yielded critical real-time intelligence about persons and plans to kill more Americans. We missed that opportunity and now could pay a catastrophic price.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems like a naïve college professor, more committed to a theoretical ideal of preserving Miranda rights than to defending America. 

This perception is growing, and it’s contributing to the fear factor.  Writing recently in the Wall Street Journal, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey observes:

What the gaffes, the almost comically strained avoidance of such direct terms as "war" and "Islamist terrorism," and the failure to think of Abdulmutallab as a potential source of intelligence rather than simply as a criminal defendant seem to reflect is that some in the executive branch are focused more on not sounding like their predecessors than they are on finding and neutralizing people who believe it is their religious duty to kill us. That's too bad, because the Constitution vests "the executive power"—not some of it, all of it—in the president. He, and those acting at his direction, are responsible for protecting us.

Mukasey understands the fear factor nexus. He concludes his piece by arguing, "There is much to worry about if they think that the principal challenge of the day is detecting bombs at the airport rather than actively searching out, finding and neutralizing terrorists before they get there."

Fear also hampers the economic recovery. And Mr. Obama’s domestic policies are causing angst here, as well. Growing choruses of economic analysts recognize this point. Larry Kudlow, writing in National Review Online last week, argues the collective weight of all these measures – the “stimulus monster,” cap and trade, government takeover of health care, increases in marginal tax rates and capital gains tax rates – is dragging the economy down. “It’s creating so much uncertainty that even profitable businesses are afraid to hire new workers and expand,” Kudlow writes.

He’s right. Instead of injecting confidence, Mr. Obama seems like a risky gambler, doubling down on doubt. 

University of Chicago economists Gary S. Becker, Steven J. Davis, and Kevin M. Murphy make a similar point in last week’s Wall Street Journal. They argue that introducing a host of economic changes on the heels of a recession is a mistake and contributing to our economic woes. "By failing to adopt a measured approach, Congress and the president may be slowing the economic recovery, and thereby prolonging the distress from the recession," they write.

The Democratic leadership is exacerbating the fear factor, hurling the party into a political death spiral.  Veteran political analyst Charlie Cook says, "Watching Democrats over the last 6 months is a bit like watching a car wreck in slow motion.”

No one knows all the reasons underlying voter trepidation with Mr. Obama and the Democrats. Americans clearly desired “change” in the 2008 election.  So now are they saying “no,” “too much,” or "not this kind of change?" Probably a little of each. The Democrats seek to promote change with a host of party-line votes on everything from the stimulus to cap and trade to health care. Americans are connecting the dots – on everything from fighting terrorism to domestic policy – and the picture emerging from Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington is scaring them.

Bottom line: Americans want political leaders to solve problems with common sense, not politicians who act like ideologues on a mission.

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