The NYT Gets It Wrong

In the paper's editorial on President-elect Barack Obama:

"His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens."

That is wrong.  I have absolutely no desire to be an apologist for President George W. Bush at this time.  None at all.  

However, while President Bush has failed in many ways over the past five years, I cannot say, factually speaking, he has failed to keep the nation's citizens safe in the one manner I feel that the national government must before almost any other consideration.  It must protect our physical security from mortal external threats for any liberties or freedoms to be meaningful.  And with the exception of September 11, which I don't believe any President could have accurately foreseen, Bush's time in office has not witnessed any additional domestic civilian deaths as a result of terrorism.

Bush will no doubt attempt to hang his legacy on that peg, presuming it holds true through to the end of his term.

Obviously, one may legitimately argue that the thousands of deaths in Iraq undermine any argument to that effect.  And I see that argument - the grave loss of life is unfortunate.  But I would note that military personnel bore the loss in fighting radicalized segments of Islam and factional Iraqi forces, not civilians at home.  One may argue that Bush's unilateralism and bellicose ways abroad engendered additional rage toward America in the long run.  Perhaps, but the prospect of a security disaster in the short term would likely negate any such advantages in the calculus of an Executive.  One may also argue that incursions against individual liberty by the government on the domestic front "didn't keep citizens safe."  Personally, I don't see that as a safety issue, but a liberty issue.  And in that vein, I agree the Bush administration harmed individual liberty domestically in a number of ways.

But in the short-term, like it or not - despise the methodology or strategy or ideology undergirding it if you like - on his watch, President Bush did keep individual citizens in the United States safe in the wake of September 11, 2001.  Or, at the very least, I don't think a perceived failure of government protection of citizens motivated the electorate in yesterday's election.