Crying wolf on terror

As expected, “terror” has once more become the word of the day as the Republican convention approaches. Kerry and Edwards were dominating the news and despite lack of a dramatic post-DNC bounce, they’re now closing in dramtically on issues that bush “owned,” like terror. So, as we all know by now, the terror alert is raised, bush tells us all we are “in danger” and Ridge, who is never, ever political, tells us the latest threats were only discovered thanks to the bold leadership of gwb and his glorious “war on terror.” (Never mind that most — all? — of the “new information” was years old, the most recent being from 8 months ago.)

There’s an excellent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times by William O’Rourke that clarifies just how important the terror issue is to bush, and why it is crucial for him to keep it top of mind for everyone from now until election day.

Terror alerts are mini-“October surprises” for this administration, ready to be employed anytime President Bush wants to move the Kerry-Edwards campaign off the front page for a few days. The ”cry wolf” factor is high. Tom Ridge’s claim that his Homeland Security Department ”doesn’t do politics” rings hollow, given his political background and the boss he is beholden to. Bush can shout, ”We’re a nation in danger” in the Rose Garden anytime he wishes, but the public may yet conclude that the danger is the president’s judgment….

There was a lot of talk among Democrats before the convention about the need to introduce Kerry to the nation. The GOP’s task is different. The public doesn’t want to know more about Bush, because when it has looked into his background, it has found a nest of bad news: Bush’s sketchy military service, his drinking, his various failed businesses. The two Kerry daughters managed to make their father seem like ”the real deal” in their convention speeches, but it is difficult to imagine the Bush twins introducing their father with amusing anecdotes about the early years with dad.

But Bush has been “born again” in a number of ways: his election to governor of Texas and his embracing of Jesus as his savior canceled, more or less, his previous history. And his presidency was born again on 9/11. The White House characterizes this campaign as one about the “future,” not the “past.”

Unlike Ronald Reagan, Bush is no father figure: He is the big brother who will beat up — or have beaten up — anyone who offends his family. The latest elevated terror alert will make it easier to turn mid-Manhattan into an armed camp for the upcoming Republican convention.

As much as possible, the Bush campaign will try to keep the public focused on the homeland. The 9/11 Commission has become a blessing for Bush. The hearings, as well as the president’s feints toward approving some of its recommendations — including another terror czar — lets what is happening here be the news throughout the fall, rather than what is going on in Iraq.

For what is going on in Iraq is more bad news for Bush. Al-Qaida in the Big Apple is, perversely, a safer topic. The president will keep reminding the public that ”We’re a nation in danger.” The photos associated with terror alerts are now familiar: police wearing layers of military protection, an arm cradling an automatic rifle. It’s the GOP convention theme to come — A Nation in Danger: Re-elect Bush-Cheney.

This is key: We need to be distracted from Iraq, not to mention our basket-case economy. The only thing that will distract us while at the same time reflecting well on bush is terror. So the message is, Be afraid; be very afraid. And because we are all in danger, we need someone who can stay the course and be tough on the terrorists. Never mind that in Iraq all of our resolve and toughness has wrecked our economy and divided the nation like nothing else since Vietnam. People remember only what’s in front of them, and if it’s all terrror all the time, Iraq will seep into the quicksand of memory.

So I hereby promise you, this will be National Terrorism Month. Expect more and more “top al Qaida leaders” we never heard of to be caught by Pakistanis and sent off to distant places for interrogation, where we’ll never hear from them again. Expect the Republican convention to be a veritable orgy of terrorism propaganda. Expect everything else to be sidelined and scuttled. Expect Kerry and Edwards to literally fight to be heard amid the din of the ominous terrorist threats. Expect “chatter” to reach alarming levels and more computers to be found conveniently diagramming all the buildings al Qaida intends to demolish.

The terror threat is real. Perhaps a lot of the information we’ve learned is really vital. But it is always delivered to the public in a manner that reeks of poilitics. It is used to instill panic and justify anything buish does. By politicizing it, by Tom Ridge telling us in the midst of his warning that we all need to be grateful to bush, by pressuring Pakistan to deliver the goods before the election, by keeping us in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and by making terrorism the issue for his re-election, bush has made us cynical beyond words.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

I don’t understand why Bush is being condemned for the warning. The post 9-11 panel said we didn’t do enough. So Bush gives a terror alert on old information. The information prior to 9-11 was old too and looked what happened. Is Bush so hated now that anything that he does is wrong? If Kerry or anyone else was the President, don’t you think he would have done the same thing. God help us if Bush or any President didn’t give the warning and something did happen! I believe any President, whoever he is or is going to be should’ve done and would do the same thing. This won’t be the last alert by any President.

August 9, 2004 @ 4:05 am | Comment

Actually, I believe it will be National *Preparedness* Month.

No joke.

August 9, 2004 @ 4:34 am | Comment

The president will keep reminding the public that ”We’re a nation in danger.”

Or, in the revolutionary cheese-eating original, La patrie en danger!

Modern nationalism was invented during the French Revolution, as the new republic faced invasion by all the other European powers in 1793. Revolutionary leaders urged the people to take up arms in defence of the patrie, the sacred fatherland which united the French people.

Before the Revolution, countries were thought of simply as assemblages of territory held by the monarch and were not expected to have a common ethnic or linguistic identity. In France regional identities were strong, and people did not even have a language in common — they spoke only the language of their own region (e.g. Provencal, Breton, etc.).

Following the Revolution, however, and well into the twentieth century, the French state sought to eradicate regional languages and dialects in the interests of building a strong national identity based on a common culture and citizenship. Even today, the French government does not have official statistics about the religious, racial or ethnic identities of its citizens. (Of course, the liquidation of the Jews during the Occupation is another powerful reason for not keeping inventories of ethnic minorities.)

Unfortunately, the republican principle of equality has prevented the French government from taking positive measures to reverse the social exclusion of north Africans and other minorities.

August 9, 2004 @ 7:19 am | Comment

haikou, I would really appreciate alert warning that were presented to us in a sincere way. Do you remember Ashcroft callingh is own press conference several weeks ago to warn us all to look out for 17 suspects, and telling us no one was safe? Ridge was furious; there was no new danger and the color alert was left at yellow. Ashcroft was criticized by everyone, on the right and left, for politicizing fears of terror to make himself look good. Then, with the latest warning, Ridge (who I believe is basically a sincere guy) threw in the maddening references to how the “new information” came about as a result of bush’s leadership. And then bush followed up with speeches pointing to how we are in “great danger,” implying that if we change leaders now the danger will continue and increase. There is isincere caring for the well being of your citizens, and there’s propogandizing them to buttress your political standing. bush has done the latter, again and again and again, and his documented urging of Pakistan to find al Qaida members prior to the election is the ultimate proof. You may think that’s okay; I don’t and it’s just one more reason why I have no choice but to doubt absolutely everything bush tells us. His reputation now precedes him, there is not trust left. He has squandered it all.

August 9, 2004 @ 11:33 am | Comment

There is a real and present danger. Only a fool (a Democrat liberal)
would stick their head in the sand.

August 9, 2004 @ 10:14 pm | Comment

Real and present danger? Yeah, dying in a car accident. Developing cancer from unregulated polluters. Old age.

BushCo unfortunately can’t play it straight with the people, who gave him the opportunity to run the country. Those same people are going to turn him out in November and I hope that Bush quietly fails to show up for duty for those 3 lame-duck months, like he did during Vietnam.

August 9, 2004 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

Thanks Tom. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Amazing, how the masses have fallen for the terrorism BS bush has spoon-fed them.

August 9, 2004 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

Back again. I understand political agendas to be re-elected. And yes, I hate the fact that he is using terror has his primary means. But again, if he didn’t say something and something did happen…well!

Pakistan – putting the agenda aside, I do wonder if Pakistan would really do that much if he didn’t pressure them. At least it appears to be fruitful.

I guess I’m a optimist. There’s good in everyone, even Bush. As naive as this sounds, I really believe he has a concern for the country, but I will agree he has gone to far with the terror business for re-election.
Living here in China for just over two years has had a profound affect me concerning the U.S. We are so fortunate and I just hate to see everything a President does so belittled. Bush and most former presidents have been so criticised, belittled, and shamed that it appears we have lost respect for any president. No president will ever be perfect and yes, respect is something earned and once lost, well…you know. But still I just don’t understand. Like I said, naive.

August 10, 2004 @ 4:06 am | Comment

Haikou, believe it or not I once did respect bush and I was a rather vocal suipporter of the invasion of Iraq. It has been impossible for me to maintain my enthusiasm, let alone my respect. You can peruse this site and come upon all the reasons why bush lost my respect, from misleading us (including me) about Iraq and its urgency to proposing the nation’s very first discriminatory constitutional amendment to telling more casual lies than any politican in recent memory. What’s to respect? Why should I respect someone who smeared John McCain and is now doing it again to kerry? Why should I respect someone who’s made a wreck our our economy, only recently the glory of the world, with all the spoils going to the rich and the super-rich? Why should I respect someone who still insists Saddam was a serioous threat and if he had to do it again he’d still invade Iraq — after we all saw therre was no threat? (A nasty dictator, but no threat.) Why should i respect a man who tried to appoint a gay-hating bigot to play a key role on the national AIDS advisory board? Or who calls “Terror!” every time he dips in the polls? Maybe you know something I don’t. For now, I see very little that’s deserving of my respect.

August 10, 2004 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

Point well taken; and good job by the way!

In a nutshell – I just hate to see the language used about any our presidents. I’m not pointing this at you nor your site.

August 11, 2004 @ 2:24 am | Comment

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