Incompetent Terrorist Attacks Might Help Donald Trump


Ahmad Khan Rahami appears to have been a pretty incompetent terrorist. One of Josh Marshall’s readers says this is no surprise:

Good intelligence work, good police work, more aware citizenry and other measures set up since 9/11 have limited — for now, and hopefully far into the future — the ability of major terrorist plots to get off the ground in the US. Major cells get disrupted, chatter on social media leads to arrests, and then great police work over this past weekend gets the bad guy in no time. There simply isn’t any scope for large-scale, mass-casualty events at the moment in the US. Our strategy is working.

If all the serious plotting gets discovered and broken up, the only plots left are small, poorly thought out ones. That’s the good news. But there’s no way to stop every single one of these penny-ante Osamas, so it’s inevitable that we’ll periodically get hit with smallish-scale attacks. That’s the bad news—especially since Ed Kilgore thinks Ross Douthat might have been right about which candidate benefits most from pint-sized terrorist attacks. Here’s Douthat:

I don’t think it’s a simple case of “the worse the blow, the better for Trump.” The Man From Mar-a-Lago is many things, but he isn’t a reassuring figure or a steady hand, and the prospect of putting him in charge in the midst of an enormous national security crisis might give many undecided voters pause.

….What Trump benefits most from, I suspect, is a more limited sense that things are out of control — a feeling of anxiety about the world that pulses through your TV set or your computer screen but hasn’t yet hit your neighborhood or family or bank account directly….He would benefit more from another spate of Islamic State beheadings than he would from a terrorist attack that required a major military response,

Maybe so. It’s an interesting, if unsettling theory, anyway.