Friday, September 08, 2006

The Dumbest Evil Genius On The Planet

If we are to believe the frequently asserted claims made by Bush administration officials and their supporters, then we would be forced to acknowledge that the insurgents in Iraq, as well as various terrorist groups, have one eye unflinchingly trained on the domestic American political scene. The omnipresent observers maintain their vigil in order to detect even the faintest glimpse of internal discord and/or the erosion of political will. On this, they thrive.

Thus, it is argued, to criticize the President is to provide succor to terrorists and insurgents who derive sustenance from the knowledge that the commander in chief has a less-than-resounding mandate with which to act. Dissent, some allege, creeps close to treason.

In fact, some would go as far as to suggest that the terrorists and insurgents deliberately attempt to control the media landscape in such a way as to drain support for the Bush administration and its policies.

A sophisticated lot these terrorists and insurgents. Shrewd political thinkers. Deft tacticians and strategists. Worthy opponents no doubt.

With that in mind, can someone please explain to me how I should interpret Osama bin Laden's rather striking penchant for releasing ominous video tapes and other recorded messages immediately preceding elections in which the Bush administration and/or its GOP allies are struggling in the polls?

Surely Osama, a diligent student of American domestic politics, avid reader of the New York Times and watcher of CNN (and fan of Whitney Houston?), is well aware of the conventional wisdom, which is as ubiquitous as it is accepted as fact, that holds that the GOP performs better in elections when terrorism is in the spotlight. Call it the national security factor. So my reaction to the news that Osama has released yet another video tape weeks before another election in which the prospects of GOP hopefuls are sagging is a simple: what gives?

Steve Benen has a nice wrap up of some attempts to answer my query:

....The New Republic's Michael Crowley wrote, "Given the White House's current strategy to divert attention away from Iraq and back to Osama bin Laden and 9/11, this new al Qaeda video is bizarrely in sync with Karl Rove's election-season game plan. It's especially weird when you recall that bin Laden's 11th-hour video in October 2004 may have cost John Kerry the election (something I know certain of his staffers believe). I'm not suggesting any actual coordination here, something that seems almost too obvious to say. But in a weird way, you can argue that bin Laden has become a kind of political ally for George W. Bush."

Similarly, Josh Marshall added, "So al Qaida — or what's left of it — releases a five-plus year old tape of bin Laden with two of the 9/11 hijackers as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the baddies just transfered to Gitmo. Right in time for the president's big kangaroo court roll out. If you didn't know that bin Laden and Bush were the two polar opposites in the global battle between good and evil, you'd think the two were coordinating their media blitzes."

And Ezra Klein noted, "bin Laden seems perfectly content to release a new tape moments before each election. It's understood truth that the tighter terrorism's grip on the national agenda, the brighter the fortunes of the Republican Party. And yet bin Laden, whom the RNC would like you to believe blanches at the mere mention of their name, routinely plays deus ex machina each time their electoral outlook dims. To believe that bin Laden, whose network is largely online and reportedly sophisticated, cannot call up the New York Times and comprehend this electoral dynamic is the height of foolishness. So, for whatever reason, he appears intent on doing his enthusiastic best to improve the Republicans' prospects. Strange, given their belief that he fears them so."

Yeah. One could easily get the impression that bin Laden would actually rather the GOP retain power. That Bush's policies have been counterproductive for the US and, from Osama's perspective, strangely Christmas gift-like. That bin Laden prefers the rhetoric of civilizations clashing, religious connotation, wars on terror, birth pangs, xenophobic posturing, self-imposed alienation from allies, ballooning deficits and the like.

You could arrive at such a conclusion, but you would be wrong. On the contrary, bin Laden is trying to hurt Bush and the GOP, and would rather the Democrats come to power. Osama's just not smart enough to figure out the flaw in his oft-repeated tactic. Yet. After multiple failures. Even though he pays close attention to American domestic politics.

I know that might sound counterintuitive, but I have incontrovertible evidence: Dick Cheney says so. Is there a stronger indicator of truth out there? I rest my case.

h/t Kevin Drum)

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