There once was a man named McCain
Whose speeches could be quite inane.
But no need for concern
‘Cause Obama he’d burn,
When the fear card drove voters insane.
But cruel fate it did hold some surprises
And the fear card would bring no reprises.
Though he huffed and he puffed
Still his strategy muffed,
For it was he caused our frightful surmises.
The Republican campaign message is nothing if not blunt: vote for us or die. None of that prissy Ivy League subtlety and nuance for these guys, boy howdy: nope, just good old-fashioned American scaremongering.
Somewhere Joe McCarthy is smiling.
Let’s touch on just a few recent examples:
Newt Gingrich (yeah, he’s still alive) in responding to the Supreme Court granting limited judicial review to detainees at Guantanamo Bay said, “This court decision is a disaster which could cost us a city. And the debate ought to be over whether or not you’re prepared to risk losing an American city . . .”
Rudy Giuliani speaking of all the Democratic candidates said, in effect, that if a Democrat wins in November America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the level of Sept. 11.
John Bolton recently predicted that Israel will attack Iran if Obama is elected, since, you know, they’ll be afraid that Obama will simply be too wimpy to hold Iran in check.
And, of course, most recently, McCain campaign honcho, Charlie Black, famously opined that another terrorist attack on American soil “certainly would be a big advantage” for McCain.
Will this “we’ll scare your vote out of you” strategy work this time? There’s certainly some reason for optimism it won’t. After all, similar Republican fear tactics fell flat in the 2006 congressional elections (although they were a smashing success in both 2002 and 2004). And this year, so far anyway, people seem more interested in domestic issues — the economy, health care, energy costs — than in terrorism based scaremongering.
But, lest we forget, John McCain has friends in high places (you know, that big White House) — folks who’ve repeatedly demonstrated moral scruples so low that they would bring swift condemnation from of a two bit con man (including a willingness to misuse terrorism alerts for political gain). So who knows what potentially game changing new “threats” may materialize just in the nick of time this election year.
Clearly, Obama needs to continue to aggressively combat GOP claims that he’s somehow soft on terrorism. And his campaign seems to be doing a good job, though his flip-flop on FISA went too far in the direction of pandering and did more harm than good.
But what about the other side of the fear card? What about the side of the card that features the image of the really scary dude in this race — you know, a guy by the name of John McCain.
When will that side of the fear card become an issue in the race?
Admittedly, part of what makes a McCain presidency seem so frightening is simply intuitive: as I’ve said before, there’s just something about the man that any time I think of him being president, I’m struck by the uneasy sense that he may wake up in the middle of the night sometime and decide to nuke Iceland, just because he’s pissed off at glaciers.
But, unfortunately, there’s much more than mere intuition at play here: there’s a mountain of troubling evidence. There’s his famous hair trigger temper, his clear love of all things war and his consistent bad judgment in foreign affairs. This is a man, after all, who was one of the chief drum beaters in favor of a war in Iraq that has proven to be one of the greatest blunders in the nation’s history: yet, he appears to have learned nothing from the experience.
Indeed, he seems bound and determined — eager even — to double down on his Iraq foolhardiness in Iran.
Talk about something that ought to scare the hell out of us.
So there’s the irony: there definitely is a fear card that could quite legitimately be played in this race: it just isn’t the one that everyone’s talking about.