President-making security moms

Posted: Sep 27, 2004 12:00 AM
Suddenly, the hottest phenomenon in presidential politics is the metamorphosis of women from ?soccer moms? to ?security moms.? If this group is as much in play as some polls suggest, then working and other mothers who are concerned first and foremost with the security of their children may well prove to be president-makers in 2004.

It should hardly come as a surprise that women are instinctively preoccupied with the well-being of their families and communities. Roughly a decade ago, the Center for Security Policy conducted a series of focus groups around the country in which people were asked how they felt about being unprotected against ballistic missile attack. Once they got over the shock that their government had deliberately left them vulnerable to such a threat, the moms and other women in these groups were even more insistent than their male counterparts that corrective action be taken. (Interestingly, such action is expected to begin to be taken this week, thanks to President Bush?s commitment to deploying missile defenses ? something Sen. Kerry has strenuously opposed throughout his Senate career.)

Were such women to become part of an identifiable, reasonably cohesive voting block that places a premium on a presidential candidate?s judgment and leadership in security matters, however, it could truly revolutionize national politics. And while some Democratic pollsters (notably, the oft-cited Anna Greenburg) dismiss this phenomenon, there does appear to be a there, there.

In addition to recent poll data showing George W. Bush ahead with security moms, their sentiments were much in evidence in focus groups conducted this summer by Family Security Matters ? a new organization the Center for Security Policy has helped founder Carol Taber create to speak to, and for, such women. When undecided female voters in Ohio were asked what question they would like to ask the presidential candidates, the answer routinely was along the lines of ?What will you do to keep my kids safe??

It is noteworthy that these results predated the horrifying terrorist attacks in Beslan, Russia, where children and their parents were murdered by the hundreds. In the aftermath, every mother in America is on notice that such a nightmare ? or something far worse ? could be inflicted on us here. Consequently, the question of who will better protect our kids and communities certainly could be a decisive one this election year.

A significant number of security moms and other women ? many of whom have reflexively voted Democratic in the past, appear to have concluded that President Bush has proven a competent steward of national security in the wake of 9/11. This explains, in part, Sen. Kerry?s determined effort to savage his record, undermine public support for his efforts to consolidate the liberation of Iraq and promote the idea that Mr. Bush is out of touch with reality about the latter being part of the war on terror and the progress being made in it.

Unfortunately for the challenger, most women seem unlikely to buy the argument that George Bush has not worked hard at keeping them and their loved ones safe. The absence of a terrorist attack in this country since September 2001 is probably attributable to many things in addition to Mr. Bush?s leadership. But such success makes it difficult to dismiss that leadership. To be sure, a new attack could occur at any time; indeed, there is every reason to believe our enemies hope to perpetrate a devastating one before Election Day.

Still, whether Sen. Kerry thinks so now or not, security moms, like most other Americans, appear to understand that the removal of Saddam Hussein was ? and remains ? part and parcel of the war on terror. In fact, two years ago, even Massachusetts junior Senator agreed: On September 15, 2002, Mr. Kerry told the CBS program ?Face the Nation?:

[Saddam Hussein] may even miscalculate and slide these weapons [of mass destruction] off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States.

Security moms are likewise understanding of the need for effective counterterrorism laws like the Patriot Act. They are unlikely to feel comfortable with his call last December for ?replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time." Their confidence in his judgment could scarcely be enhanced by the shift such demagoguery represents from Senator Kerry?s declaration just four months earlier that, "Most of [the Patriot Act] has to do with improving the transfer of information between CIA and FBI, and it has to do with things that really were quite necessary in the wake of what happened on September 11th."

Then there is Sen. Kerry?s much-touted ?plan? for getting the U.S. out of Iraq. If it is something other than an strategy for cutting-and-running, this ?plan? amounts to little more than an unsubstantiated assertion that he can implement Mr. Bush?s strategy for enlisting allies, training Iraqis and achieving elections more effectively than the President can. One who now derides his opponent at every turn for inhabiting a ?fantasy land of spin? must have a pretty low regard for the intelligence of security moms if he thinks they cannot discern fantasy plans of spin.

The Nation could do worse than to have its next president decided by security moms. At the very least, they appreciate the priority he and they must give to protecting us all. I suspect they also understand who is best equipped to do that.