The email came in late Monday night, threatening not one Los Angeles public school but many -- bombs in lockers and nerve gas, an attack that would be "something big."
Los Angeles is 60 miles from San Bernardino, site of the terror attack that left 14 dead two weeks ago. Out of caution, the Los Angeles public school system, second largest in the country, closed.
The New York City public school system, the largest in the country, received a similar, simultaneous threat but made the determination that it was a "hoax." The schools remained open.
Police Commissioner William Bratton called it the work of someone who had watched a lot of "Homeland" but "not anything that we could associate with jihadist activity." At an unrelated press conference halfway through the school day, he and Mayor Bill de Blasio noted the seriousness of being vigilant but explained that the threat was not credible. De Blasio cautioned against overreaction and said, "we're not going to give in to the efforts by terrorists to change our lifestyle, change our values, change our democracy.""
Unfortunately, overreaction was the name of the game at last night's Republican debate.
The view from debate No. 5
The first line of the night, from otherwise halfway reasonable Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, set the tone for the proceedings: "The question is, how do we keep America safe from terrorism?"
Everything came back to terror: immigration; technology; political correctness.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz repeated over and over again the need "to keep us safe."" For the record, he's still in favor of carpet bombing. Donald Trump would beef up the military. Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson said that the nation was in "grave danger." Referencing the L.A. school closures, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, "we have people across this country who are scared to death," and that if an office party in San Bernardino was a target then "everywhere in America is a target for these terrorists."
Ironically, amid all the bluster, one thing was missing from the debate: a comprehensive plan, or even gestures at one, for how the candidates would keep the proverbial "us" safe beyond building a wall or shutting the door to refugees entirely. In a debate that spent its first hour and a half entirely on foreign policy, no major strategies were presented beyond what we are already doing to defeat the Islamic State.
In one of the night's most pointed exchanges, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attacked the king of bluster Donald Trump, who shielded himself as usual in vague phrasing and loose statements.
"You're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency," Bush said. "Leadership is about creating a serious strategy to deal with the threat of our time."
Alas, this elicited only a weak comeback, not sparks of strategy, leadership, or seriousness.
The threat at hand
Terrorism is a real threat. It is understandable for a school superintendent, responsible for the safety of hundreds of thousands of children, rattled by a nearby terror attack, to initially act with caution.
But it is even more important not to let that fear become blinding, or knee-jerk, or ill-considered.
Luckily, public schools in Los Angeles will be open today. "We now must get back to the business of educating our kids," said the superintendent.
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