Dick Cheney is now leading a chorus of conservatives who are howling about how the near success of the Christmas panty bomber has demonstrated that Obama has left America an unsafe terrorist playground where decent citizens aren’t safe anywhere. (I’ll ignore that the shoe bomber was also nearly successful in blowing up a plane in 2001, on Cheney’s watch.) But let’s put the risks in perspective.
In 2009, 16 people died as a result of terrorism in the U.S. And this includes Ft. Hood and the killing of Dr. Tiller, so we’re not just looking at foreign terrorists, but including our homegrown ones as well. Even assuming that the Christmas plot succeeded, this number would be just north of 300.
In contrast, 45,000 Americans died as a result of having no health coverage. About 12,000 died as a result of firearm homicides. Hell, 600 died from Salmonella poisoning in 2009. Yet the same voices that would have you cowering in fear and hiding in your basement over terrorism are adamantly opposed to expanding healthcare or restricting guns.
Terrorism is horrible, and we do need to keep looking to improve our ability to detect and deter it. But if we’re really talking about keeping Americans safe, it’s hardly a blip on the radar. So it’s pretty clear that the motivation of conservatives is not your safety. It would seem to be more of their classic fear mongering for political benefit than anything to do with your personal benefit. Let’s face it, if the FDA could figure out a way to position Salmonella as a terrorist threat, Republicans would be backing legislation to outlaw chickens.