Even beyond the immediate political manipulation there was always a drive to push the country back into a 'high-fear' climate, with a presidential statements, always with some new leaked intel to dramatize the threat, even what you might call the iconography of terror -- color coded threat levels and the like.But that isn't totally right:
Eight years ago, "a terrorist bomber's attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of September 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called 'shoe bomber,' Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate."
Obviously the Bush administration used terror threats as a political weapon. It's a convenient extension of the conservative worldview which sees aggressive grandstanding and heightened anxiety as a genuine strength. Issuing a threat warning was also a form of foreplay for Dick Cheney. The common thread between the Shoe Bomber and the Underpants Bomber is that both administrations avoided a terrorist attack on their watch through sheer luck. Our best defense was operator error. Because that's clear, neither administration could make a claim to competence or control. So the attacks were spun as non-events. That's the expected reaction by the Obama folks, who downplay everything related to terrorism ("Keep Calm And Carry On" might as well be the mantra, as Marshall notes). For the Bush administration, the Shoe Bomber was a terrorism threat that couldn't be used for political gain. But this one is on Obama's watch. Thus the silence then and the furor now, with the upshot being the GOP will always play the fear card—except when it can't.