Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column marks him as the latest liberal Times columnist who find it an edgy argument to denigrate the risk of terrorism in favor of their beef of the week: 'Republicans, Zealots, and Our Security.' Kristof actually likened the danger posed by Tea Party sympathizers in Congress ("domestic zealots") to Al Qaeda.
If China or Iran threatened our national credit rating and tried to drive up our interest rates, or if they sought to damage our education system, we would erupt in outrage.
Well, wake up to the national security threat. Only it's not coming from abroad, but from our own domestic extremists.
We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength - and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America's national security this summer doesn't come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.
House Republicans start from a legitimate concern about rising long-term debt. Politicians are usually focused only on short-term issues, so it would be commendable to see the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party seriously focused on containing long-term debt. But on this issue, many House Republicans aren't serious, they're just obsessive in a destructive way. The upshot is that in their effort to protect the American economy from debt, some of them are willing to drag it over the cliff of default.
So let's remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let's also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.
The ever-reliable Paul Krugman made a prediction in a January 29, 2002 column that was both notoriously offensive and badly wrong:
It was a shocking event. With incredible speed, our perception of the world and of ourselves changed. It seemed that before we had lived in a kind of blind innocence, with no sense of the real dangers that lurked. Now we had experienced a rude awakening, which changed everything. No, I'm not talking about Sept. 11; I'm talking about the Enron scandal....The Enron scandal, on the other hand, clearly was about us. It told us things about ourselves that we probably should have known, but had managed not to see. I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.
You remember the Enron scandal, right?