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Balancing Fear: Why Counter-Terror Legislation was Blocked after the Oklahoma City and London Bombings
Unformatted Document Text:  power, due to the presence of a more powerful executive 90 , here the legislative-executive antagonism inherent in the American system and particularly the existence of the bicameral legislature served as a strong check against executive power. Conclusion In the majority of cases where large terrorist attacks lead to executives pushing for broad counterterror legislation, the executives get their way. The cases in this paper exhibited the value of the following five factors. First, executive threat-shaping was once against bolstered as the independent variable in pushing counterterror legislation. Though both Clinton and Blair were blocked in their initial pursuits of legislation, they both eventually got most of what they wanted from their respective legislatures though with a time delay. Shaping the terror threat as a law enforcement issue, or a crime, proved to be a hindrance to passing anti-terror law. Both Clinton and, at times, Blair framed the terror threat as a criminal matter and this framing simply made the threat appear less urgent and important. Second, also bolstering the importance of the executive in pushing post-terror attack responses, executive approval ratings proved to be critical in determining whether or not anti-terror laws would be passed. Neither case saw a rally ‘round the leader after the terror attack and both leaders examined had poor approval ratings both before and after the attacks. That said, mass fear levels, though a constant across cases, were clearly important in pushing the threat. Third, the executive’s mandate proved to be particularly important in these cases. Even with a favorable partisan composition of the government, Tony Blair’s mandate was weak given poor election results and a poor approval rating. Clinton’s mandate, also 90 On this point, see the discussion in Rubin, “Freedom and Order,” chapter 5. 35

Authors: Rubin, Gabriel.
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power, due to the presence of a more powerful executive
, here the legislative-executive
antagonism inherent in the American system and particularly the existence of the
bicameral legislature served as a strong check against executive power.
Conclusion
In the majority of cases where large terrorist attacks lead to executives pushing
for broad counterterror legislation, the executives get their way. The cases in this paper
exhibited the value of the following five factors. First, executive threat-shaping was once
against bolstered as the independent variable in pushing counterterror legislation.
Though both Clinton and Blair were blocked in their initial pursuits of legislation, they
both eventually got most of what they wanted from their respective legislatures though
with a time delay. Shaping the terror threat as a law enforcement issue, or a crime,
proved to be a hindrance to passing anti-terror law. Both Clinton and, at times, Blair
framed the terror threat as a criminal matter and this framing simply made the threat
appear less urgent and important. Second, also bolstering the importance of the executive
in pushing post-terror attack responses, executive approval ratings proved to be critical in
determining whether or not anti-terror laws would be passed. Neither case saw a rally
‘round the leader after the terror attack and both leaders examined had poor approval
ratings both before and after the attacks. That said, mass fear levels, though a constant
across cases, were clearly important in pushing the threat.
Third, the executive’s mandate proved to be particularly important in these cases.
Even with a favorable partisan composition of the government, Tony Blair’s mandate
was weak given poor election results and a poor approval rating. Clinton’s mandate, also
90
On this point, see the discussion in Rubin, “Freedom and Order,” chapter 5.
35


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