Friday, August 13, 2004

Follow the Logic 

Step #1: George Will, in his syndicated column, urges the Bush campaign to greater subtlety in its crass attempts to terrorize the American electorate:
In formulating and publicizing its policies regarding homeland security, the Bush administration must take seriously a fact it deplores: Regarding the war on terror, a minority, but a sizable minority, believes that the government's words and deeds merit deep skepticism. The hard core of this minority is the Michael Moore-Howard Dean cohort of fanatics, but the minority is much larger than that and it will become even larger unless the administration worries about its sensibilities. For example, if a terrorism alert is based on intelligence some of which is years old, the government should say so immediately.

Writing in the New Republic, three nonfanatics (John Judis, Spencer Ackerman and Massoud Ansari) note that last month the magazine reported that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistan to deliver a "high-value target" in time for the November election . . . . A spokesman for the National Security Council says the New Republic's story is not confirmed by Pakistan's announcement on July 29, the day of John Kerry's acceptance speech, of the arrest, four days earlier, of a senior al Qaeda figure . . . .

Such suspicions are hardly self-validating. However, the government should take care not to inadvertently foment them. So, for example, it would be well if Tom Ridge henceforth would make those grim homeland security announcements without including testimonials to the president's leadership. Just the news, please.
Step #2: Nameless White House Official tells AP: we pretty much just pull it out of our ass as circumstances demand:
The Bush administration has discovered no evidence of imminent plans by terrorists to attack U.S. financial buildings, nearly two weeks after the government issued startling warnings about such possible threats, a White House official said Thursday.

Some documents and computer files seized in al-Qaeda raids showing surveillance of U.S. financial buildings had been accessed for unknown purposes this spring, months later than authorities had previously disclosed, the official said . . . .

But nothing in the documents themselves has suggested any attack was planned soon, the officials said.

"I have not seen an indication of an imminent operation," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity with reporters from nearly a dozen news organizations. Investigators are still poring over volumes of the seized information . . . .

None of the documents or computer files recovered in the recent raids in Pakistan mentioned any election-related plots, the same official said.

This official said unspecified intelligence indicates al-Qaeda's plans for an attack before the election were "more than merely aspirational" but declined to be more specific because it might reveal the information's source. Timing was unclear, the official said, acknowledging that intelligence agencies "wish we had a sense."

Senior U.S. officials – including Townsend, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice – have expressed similar concerns since March about possible al-Qaeda efforts to disrupt the U.S. elections.
Step #3 (via Zemblan patriots J.M. & J.D.) explains the hasty backtracking in Steps #1 and #2. A sizable portion of the American public appears to be waking up from its three-year state of narcolepsy:
A new study reveals a surprising twist on the conventional wisdom about November's presidential election: While political pundits seem to agree that news of terrorist threats and other dangers from abroad is good news for President Bush's re-election bid, the opposite might be true.

Michigan State University political science professors Darren W. Davis and Brian D. Silver say their study found that the more worried people are about the possibility of another terrorist attack, the more likely they are to vote for John Kerry. The research will be presented at a meeting of political scientists in Chicago next month . . . .

Terror concerns have increased sharply only twice since 2001, around the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and during the invasion of Iraq. Both times, Davis and Silver's research showed -- and other national surveys agreed -- that the heightened concern was accompanied by increased approval of Bush's performance in office.

In the most recent Michigan State survey, however, increased concern was no longer linked to increased approval of Bush's performance. Davis and Silver found that among those who are very concerned about another attack, just 29 percent approve of Bush. But among people who say they are not at all concerned about another attack, the president's approval rating is 30 points higher: 59 percent.

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