Americans who fear they might die while taking a bath are more rational than Americans who fear a terrorist attack, according to the New York Times.
“Americans are more likely to die in a car crash, drown in a bathtub or be struck by lightning than be killed by a terrorist,” wrote the Times’ Peter Baker on Monday. “The Islamic State does not pose an existential threat to the United States.”
The Times put this opinion forward at a time when a majority of Americans admit to worries that they or a member of their family will be the victim of a terrorist attack.
Baker believes President Barack Obama shares his opinion but is not politically able to say so during his final State of the Union address on Tuesday.
“By all accounts, Mr. Obama is sympathetic to this view,” wrote Baker. “But it is also a politically untenable argument at a time when polls show greater fears about terrorism than at any point since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. As it is, critics contend that Mr. Obama does not take the threat seriously enough and has not done enough to guard the nation against attack.”
Baker writes that Obama admitted in a recent off-the-record meeting with columnists that he does not see ISIS as a threat to the United States.
“The president is more careful about expressing such an analysis in public, acutely aware that his past comments have made him look as if he was underestimating the threat,” wrote Baker.
Baker characterized Obama’s public response to the rise of the terrorist threat, which has included calling the Islamic State the “J.V. team” of terrorism and saying it had been “contained,” a “measured” reaction that he now only reveals in private conversations.
Although Baker thinks that the 51 percent of Americans worried about terrorism should be more afraid of a bath, he also posits that “a certain number of relatively low-level terrorist attacks may be inevitable.”
Juliette Kayyem, a former counter terrorism official in the Obama administration, told Baker that treating terrorism like an irrational fear is the wrong approach for government to take.
“As a society we’re irrational about it, but government has to accept that irrationality rather than fight it,” said Kayyem. “When you’re talking about my three children, there’s no acceptable losses. We don’t want to hear that you view it that way.”