It’s been a historically divisive campaign season, but on Sunday morning, political figures of all stripes agreed that the world isn’t appreciably safer than it was before the September 11 terror attacks.
On Fox News Sunday, Jeh Johnson—who heads the Department of Homeland Security, an agency George W. Bush started in the wake of the attacks—said terrorism is still a serious, if different, problem.
We’re less likely to see a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, he said, but more likely to face threats from so-called “lone wolf” attackers.
“Terrorist organizations have the ability to literally reach into our homeland through the Internet and recruit and inspire,” he told host Chris Wallace. “And that’s a relatively new environment and requires a whole of government response.”
“We’re safer in certain ways; we’re not as safe in other ways,” the former New York City mayor said. “Here's the problem that we have…We’re always fighting the last war, and then they figure a new one for us. Terrorists are even more cunning at that. We're always fighting the last battle, the attack of the airplane. So yes, is our airplane safety much greater today? Absolutely. Is our cargo safety much safer today? Can't tell you that.”
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the House intelligence committee, took a view that was even more bleak.
"We're even worse today,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation. “I think the threat level is even higher because the radical Islamic problem, whether it’s ISIS or Al Qaeda, they continue to add followers. So even though ISIS is having problems controlling some territories in Syria and Iraq, they’ve spread globally now.”
“What Al Qaeda started on September 11, 2001 continues to metastasize,” he added, “and I’m concerned we're not paying enough attention to the growth of radical jihadism globally.”
And Leon Panetta, a former CIA director who backs Hillary Clinton, told Fareed Zakaria on his CNN show that the terror threat “continues to metastasize.” Only current CIA director, John Brennan, took a different, more optimistic tone.
“We have learned a lot,” he told CBS’s John Dickerson. “We have done a lot. And that’s why, today, I believe that it’s much more difficult for these groups to carry out the type of attack that they did 15 years ago.”
This all came the morning both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump attended a 9/11 memorial service in Manhattan. The two presidential campaigns both pledged not to schedule any official campaign events on this year’s anniversary—but when they wake up tomorrow, both candidates will continue to use the dangers of a post-9/11 universe against the other.
“Hillary Clinton’s legacy in Iraq, Libya, and Syria has produced only turmoil and suffering,” Trump said in a speech last week on national security. “Her destructive policies have displaced millions of people, then she has invited the refugees into the West with no plan to screen them.”
Trump has also used Clinton’s initial support for the Iraq War to attack her, even though he told Howard Stern on the eve of the invasion that he, too, thought it was a good idea. He argues that Obama made the world more dangerous, and that Clinton wouldn’t change that trajectory. His campaign store even sells “MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN” buttons.
Clinton, meanwhile, argues that the world is dangerous and unpredictable enough without Donald Trump controlling any nuclear stockpiles.
She has also said his call for a religious test on immigrants would be following the lead of ISIS. And the top super PAC backing her, Priorities USA, spent $5 million to air a TV ad showing a mushroom cloud and suggesting nuclear war would be more likely under a Trump presidency.
And on Sunday, she continued to accuse the real-estate mogul of giving “aid and comfort” to America’s enemies.
“What unfortunately Donald Trump has done is made our job harder, and given a lot of aid and comfort to ISIS operatives and even ISIS officials who want to make this some sort of clash of civilization — a religious war,” Clinton said on CNN’s State of the Union. “It's not, and it can't become that."