My story from last night included new comments from a number of congressmen and senators who remembered the 2002 Iraq war vote and were weighing new action with everything from total bellicosity (Florida Sen. Bill Nelson) to distrust in official sources (Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake). Over at the Intercept, Dan Froomkin cleaves a nice divide between the Congressional Hyperbole Caucus and the Congressional Restraint Caucus. There are not as many members of that team, but one of them stands out:
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) was talking about an alternate path in a statement he issued on Monday. “I encourage them to employ the same intelligence resources – and the same selective, highly effective means they used to bring down Osama Bin Laden,” he wrote. ”Special operations of this kind do not involve U.S. troops on the ground, the killing of innocent people, or the re-involvement of the United States in another terribly destructive, expensive, open-ended conflict in that region.”
Nolan, like Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, is a Democrat who stands at least some chance of being defeated in eight weeks yet has refused to panic about ISIS and demand we bomb somebody so we can sleep better tonight. Elected in 2012 over a one-and-done Tea Party congressman, Nolan is being challenged by Stewart Mills, the owner of a family sporting goods store who is called "the Republican Brad Pitt" because 1) he is handsome, 2) he is pretty chill, and 3) he has shoulder-length hair. Yet Mills has not really engaged on ISIS. "The people within the 8th District aren't necessarily concerned with foreign policy first," he told a Duluth paper.
Mills may be an outlier. Most every other Republican with ambition has approached ISIS in one of two ways: as a reminder that Barack Obama is a lousy president (most voters in close races agree with that proposition) or as an opportunity to feed the terror-panic. The most churlish example of this probably comes from the Iowa Republican Party, which warns that Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley is "silent about his plan for dealing with the continued terrorist threats posed to America by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (most analysts say the threat is minimal), and backed a plan to "relocate terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center, which is less than three miles from the Iowa border."
Three miles from the Iowa border! Up to now, Iowans have lived peacefully with the knowledge that 150 criminals are in jail nearby. But terrorist prisoners—they could escape, somehow, and theoretically launch jetpack-based assaults on Dubuque!
The return of the "scary terror prisoners" trope suggests that the Rick Nolans and Bernie Sanderses of politics will remain outnumbered by the fist-clenching mattress-soakers who understand that voters are easily scared.