Periscope Depth

you’ll never eat lunch in this town again

Bruce Schneier has an excellent post up on how democracies weight risk aversion:

Imagine two politicians today. One of them preaches fear and draconian security measures. The other is someone like me, who tells people that terrorism is a negligible risk, that risk is part of life, and that while some security is necessary, we should mostly just refuse to be terrorized and get on with our lives.

Fast-forward 10 years. If I’m right and there have been no more terrorist attacks, the fear preacher takes credit for keeping us safe. But if a terrorist attack has occurred, my government career is over. Even if the incidence of terrorism is as ridiculously low as it is today, there’s no benefit for a politician to take my side of that gamble.

I agree with the tone of that sentiment, but disagree with the content – not because it’s too cynical, but because it isn’t cynical enough.

If the attack on the World Trade Center constitutes an intelligence failure, what politician paid the price for it? George Tenet, Director of the CIA, kept his job for three years after the attacks. And he was a political appointee: first in, last out. Which elected politicians got canned for being asleep at the switch? Richard Shelby, then head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, still serves. Porter Goss, then head of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, served until 2004, at which time he resigned to take Tenet’s old job.

(I don’t know if Schneier meant “politicians” to include political appointees, the bureaucrats who actually execute government policy. I read it to mean elected legislators)

There’s this recurring notion, peddled openly on the right and cynically on the left, that a politician who isn’t sufficiently “strong” on the War on Terror will lose their seat. Are there any examples to support this notion?