The Only Thing We Have to Sell is Fear Itself
The Republican Party is unveiling a new campaign ad this weekend that features -- surprise surprise -- Osama Bin Laden. The ad features a ticking time bomb, footage of terrorists training, Osama's image and quotes of Osama's threats. It's the same shopworn fear tactic the GOP utilized in 2002 and 2004. This time, however, its effectiveness is highly questionable.
The logic behind the Republicans' scare campaigns goes as follows: Boogie Man Osama is out to get us. You can trust George Bush and the Republicans to keep us safe. You can't trust the Democrats to keep us safe.
However, that logic falls flat in 2006. We now know the following: President Bush received a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001 entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S." The PDB specifically mentioned hijacking threats, and "recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice, ignored these warnings. Then, when Osama Bin Laden was pinned down in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, the Bush Administration let Bin Laden escape and instead began its historic folly in Iraq. Then, Bush said of Bin Laden in a March 13, 2002 press conference, "I truly am not that concerned about him." Then, in April 2006, the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which is assembled by the 16 intelligence agencies in Bush's own administration, stated that the Iraq War had become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, serving as a recruiting tool for new terrorists.
Likewise, while recruiting new terrorists by invading and occupying Iraq, Bush and the Republicans have done nothing to shore up homeland security. They have not provided for inspection of cargo coming to our shores. They have not protected vulnerable nuclear and chemical facilities. They have not instituted inspection of the commercial cargo that sits next to our checked luggage on airplanes. They have cut funds for emergency first responders.
In other words, we are less, not more, safe since Bush and his rubber stamp Republican Congress began running things. So now the only logic left behind the latest GOP ad is: we have not caught Osama Bin Laden, we are less safe since we invaded Iraq, and we are doing a terrible job in the war on terror. But the Democrats would be even worse.
According to the latest opinion polls, the public no longer buys this logic. At some point, even among Republicans and frightened independents, those famous "security moms," the Democrats couldn't do a worse job than the Republicans. That point has been reached and, in fact, voters have developed faith in the Democratic Party. As the polls indicate, Democrats by a significant margin are now more trusted than Republicans to fight the war on terror, and two thirds of Americans believe that, as the NIE indicates, the Iraq War has made us less safe from terrorism.
In short, the Republicans' ad campaign could backfire big time, feeding into Americans' fears about the Republicans' incompetence in fighting the War on Terror. This may be one ad the GOP wished it had never run.