Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

If John Kerry loses in November, it will likely be largely attributable to the fear mongering of Republicans. We know they have nothing positive to run on so they have no choice but to politicize terror fears.

Following up on Dick Cheney's claim that if "we make the wrong choice in November" (wink wink nudge nudge) "we'll risk being attacked again," their latest attacks on Kerry are pushing the idea that a vote for Kerry is a vote of the terrorists.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Sept. 18: "I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops," Hastert said. Asked by a reporter whether he thought al-Qaida would operate more comfortably with John Kerry in the White House, Hastert replied, "That's my opinion, yes."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sept. 21: Terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry."

And the latest ad by conservative 527 Progress For America shows images of terrorists, bin Laden and Mohammed Atta among them, and then states:

These people want to kill us. They killed hundreds of innocent children in Russia, 200 innocent commuters in Spain and 3,000 innocent Americans. John Kerry has a 30-year record of supporting cuts in defense and intelligence, and endlessly changing positions on Iraq. Would you trust Kerry up against these fanatic killers?
This strategy is on top of the classic Republican tactic of accusing those that criticize the war of somehow "comforting the enemy." As Iyad Allawi himself said, in a perfect echo of George Bush's talking points:

These doubters [of the war] risk underestimating our country and they risk fueling the hopes of the terrorists.
Certainly, playing on our fears is nothing new for the president. From our friends at salon:
Indeed, since Sept. 11th, fear has been the animating principle of nearly all of Bush's policies. The administration has invoked terrifying specters -- biological and chemical weapons rained from crop dusters or spewed into subway systems, a "dirty bomb" radiating entire downtown areas, a nuclear "mushroom cloud" rising over an American city -- to justify everything from the USA PATRIOT Act to racial profiling to the indefinite detention of "enemy combatants" to the invasion of Iraq.

Considering Bush's strength in the polls, one wonders how effective Kerry and Edwards's rebuttals of outrage at these attacks, calling them what they are, un-American, will be. One can only hope there is a backlash against this ugliness. There already is one in the media, with the editorial pages of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times weighing in. Conservatives would say this is just typical of the liberal media bashing Bush, but what this criticism ignores is that the sentiment contained in these editorials is neither conservative nor liberal, it simply echoes the very American values of freedom of expression and fair play, values that are severely under assault by the Republicans in this campaign.

New York Times, 9/25/04 calls these tactics "appalling":

Mr. Bush has not disassociated himself from any of this, and in his own campaign speeches he makes an argument that is equally divisive and undemocratic. The president has claimed, over and over, that criticism of the way his administration has conducted the war in Iraq and news stories that suggest the war is not going well endanger American troops and give aid and comfort to the enemy. This week, in his Rose Garden press conference with the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Kerry's increasingly pointed remarks on Iraq. "You can embolden an enemy by sending mixed messages," he said, going on to suggest that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers.

It is fair game for the president to claim that toppling Saddam Hussein was a blow to terrorism, to accuse Mr. Kerry of flip-flopping and to repeat continually that the war in Iraq is going very well, despite all evidence to the contrary. It is absolutely not all right for anyone on his team to suggest that Mr. Kerry is the favored candidate of the terrorists. And at a time when the United States is supposed to be preparing the Iraqi people for a democratic election, it's appalling to hear the chief executive say that loyal opposition gives aid and comfort to the enemy abroad.

And The Los Angeles Times calls President Bush a "coward":
The suggestion that terrorists support Sen. John F. Kerry for president is ugly, but basically silly. The suggestion that Kerry supports the terrorists is flat-out disgusting. President Bush has allowed surrogates to spread the former idea, but he himself has helped to promote the latter. Last week, Bush declared that Kerry's criticism of him and his Iraq policy "can embolden an enemy" and called Kerry "destructive" to the war on terror.

This attempt to delegitimize criticism rather than rebut it comes as part three of a three-part Republican strategy. (At least we hope there are only three parts.) Part one was the first wave of Swift boat ads (and the ridiculous hoo-ha around them), raising questions about Kerry's Vietnam service. From there it was an easy leap to part two, the second Swift boat wave and the accompanying fuss about Kerry's leadership of the Vietnam antiwar movement. Part three drives it all home: As during Vietnam, so during Iraq. The guy is still at it, disloyally attacking his own country in wartime and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Compared with Kerry, George W. Bush is a coward. This is not a reference to their respective activities during Vietnam. It refers to the current election campaign. Bush happily benefits from the slime his supporters are spreading but refuses to take responsibility for it or to call point-blank for it to stop.


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