Republicans, facing tough midterm elections — and with a history, as Democrats noted, of spotlighting terrorist threats in election seasons — used the news from England to try to pound home their message that they were doing everything possible to keep the nation safe. Mr. Bush strode off Air Force One to television cameras to declare that the United States was safer from terrorist attacks than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but remained in danger.
On Capitol Hill and in states where Republicans are facing tough re-election battles, party officials applauded the arrests by the British authorities as evidence of the administration’s policies in fighting terrorism, and suggested that Americans might take a cue from the tougher antiterrorism statutes Britain has enacted. In line with their efforts to keep the election from being a referendum on Mr. Bush and instead make it a choice between two distinct approaches to national security and other issues, they used the arrests to portray Democrats as weak.
“Defeatocrats!” declared a statement issued by office of the House majority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, capturing the tone of Republican rhetoric as the news unfolded.
That this was almost entirely a British operation does not deter claims that the arrests vindicate the Bush administration's approach to the "war on terror." That this appears to have been entirely a police operation, involving no torture, secret detention centers, invasions of non-threatening countries, etc., will also not prevent Republicans from trying to take credit. They are also hoping that such news keeps people's minds off of what's gone wrong in Iraq (that being just about everything.)
Don't get me wrong. I don't think Democrats and Republicans should avoid talking frankly about issues relevant to our security, even if it includes plots in our ally's country. But Democrats would be making a grave mistake in letting the Republicans make claims like these, without countering them. If Republicans think it's okay to take credit for someone else's successful anti-terror operations in a campaign ploy, then it's also fair game to mention the 1800 dead in Baghdad alone last month, to keep American eyes on the ball.