What’s most problematic, though, is that under the framework for debate Hiatt sets up, there is one appropriate role for the opposition on national security issues: to demagogically demand that the party in power take a more hawkish approach. The impulse to find some grounds on which to attack the other side as “weak on terrorism”—regardless of the merits of that attack—inexorably ratchets policy in one direction, fosters unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved, and forecloses real debate about priorities and trade-offs. That doesn’t amount, in the end, to something that “can help America.”

Greg Marx is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.