Michael Moore’s Big Idea is fear. It’s the reason Americans shoot each other says Bowling For Columbine and its gonna make ’em vote Bush says Fahrenheit 9/11. ‘We don’t do politics in the department of homeland security,’ counters Tom Ridge, Bush’s homeland security secretary. ‘This is not about politics; it is about confidence in government.’
The ‘this’ he’s talking about is a major security scare in response to the discovery of all sorts of stuff in the possession of a top al Qaeda honcho in Pakistan. Yet within a couple of days it turns out that the new plot ain’t that new. It turns out that ‘Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before Sept. 11, 2001’.
That’s not to say it won’t be useful. If 9/11 hadn’t already happened we could say the plot had been rumbled. Discovery will have forced al Qaeda to abandon at least some elements of future plans (if that’s what’s been found). We’ll get significant insights into their intelligence gathering techniques (which appear more robust than ours).
Yet all this hoo-ha the moment the Democratic Convention closes looks like something from Moore’s next film, rather than the measured now-we-know-how-to-catch-them-in-the-act response you’d hope for. If only we could have that sort of confidence in government.