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Threat Assessment


© May 20, 2003
The Daily Brew

Three weeks ago, I argued in this column that "to win the election in 2004, the Democrats must attack what are now perceived as Bush's strengths" and that "Democrats must realize whatever downside exists in confronting Bush on national security issues, the downside for failing to confront him is worse."

It appears last weekend they got the message.

Beginning with Saturday's AFSCME meeting, the nine Democrats who have announced their candidacy for the presidency are now singing a challenge to Bush's wartime leadership in perfect harmony. Democratic activists who are concerned about a second Bush term should join the chorus.

As I predicted, the Democrat's new challenge has received extensive media coverage, including articles in local and national newspapers, and segments on all of the national network news programs. Even the deeply partisan and borderline fascist media giant Fox News carried the story. While Democrats might not be thrilled that Fox News commentator/GOP spokesman Joe Scarborough presented a power-point presentation of spin developed by the White House to counter the challenge, at least it was a topic for discussion.

If Democrats hope to continue to be successful in getting heard by the American public, they must continue this line of attack.

While pressing this criticism on the Bush's national security performance, Democrats cannot ignore the fact that the Bush administration will likely do everything in their power to insure that the 2004 election will be fought in a climate of fear. Originally generated by the attacks of September 11, fears about terrorism and the threat posed by third world dictatorships like Iraq have been terribly overblown by both the White House and their accomplices in the corporate media. Judging from the opinion polls, the war on Iraq benefited George Bush as much as it must have pleased al Qaeda. No one should therefore expect the Bush White House will stop deliberately scaring America. If the mid-term elections are any guide, Democrats should not be surprised if Bush puts forward a proposal for an attack on another adversary, most likely Iran, sometime in the coming year.
To be effective, Democrats must take the Bush administration's fear mongering as a given, and learn to use it against him.

To turn the Nation's anxiety against Bush, Democrats must demonstrate that the long- term national security problems faced by America center not around terrorists and third world dictators, but around adversaries with the ability to project real force, and how the economy, the national debt, and the Bush tax cuts degrade America's ability to confront such adversaries. Fortunately, that shouldn't be too hard to do.

Fighting terrorism doesn't require that we go billions of dollars in debt. Mostly it requires a concentrated intelligence effort and good relations with other democratic governments. At the same time, however horrific terrorist attacks are, no one should be so foolish to believe that eliminating them would be the end all of our problems. Sooner or later new problems will emerge. If the Bush administration is allowed to bankrupt the country in the interim, we will be very vulnerable to those threats when they arise.

A sober assessment of all geopolitical concerns, both short and long term, reveals that while the threat of terrorism is real, it is still a limited threat. More Americans will die this week from smoking related illnesses than have been killed by terrorists in our entire history.
No matter how devastating any future attacks may be, Osama bin Laden is not going to be moving into the White House. Fundamentalist Mullahs are not going to take Bill Bennett's place on our television screens issuing religious edicts telling Americans how to live their lives.

While terrorists undoubtedly will continue to kill small numbers of Americans all across the globe, Democratic challengers can stand tall, and in stark contrast to Bush, by pointing out that it is inconceivable that they represent any real threat to the long term health of the republic. It is also worth pointing out that effectively stopping these murderers won't be accomplished with massively expensive military intervention, but will require coordination with the same governments all across the world the Bush administration has spent the last two years alienating.

However, in contrast to the threat posed by terrorism, larger threats do loom on the horizon. Some of these may actually threaten the republic. Democrats who are willing to consider those threats are also free to point out the Bush administration has been AWOL in planning for them. In fact, the Bush administration has been hard at work insuring America will not be prepared.

Grover Norquist admits that the GOP strategy of running ever expanding federal deficits is a strategy deliberately designed to eventually kill popular social programs, like social security and medicare, by first bankrupting the government. Since Bush is following Norquist's tax and borrow budget prescriptions, Democrats should not only attribute the intended result to Bush, but should also attribute these same motives to Bush. Democrats should also not be shy about pointing out the long-term national security consequences of this strategy.

While Bush would have Americans believe that his administration's maxing out the national credit card has no national security implications, one simply cannot bankrupt federal social programs without simultaneously bankrupting the national defense. Democrats cannot repeat this bit of common sense wisdom enough. If American's have a reason to be fearful about the future, it is because the Bush administration is making sure America will be financially crippled when it arrives. Democrats operating in Bush's climate of fear should repeat this charge like a mantra.

We don't know what the future will hold. But we do know that Republicans are writing tax laws with huge balloon payments that come due right in the middle of the baby boomer's retirement. We also know that the Bush administration is pushing the national debt to unprecedented levels. About the time these debts become due, China's economy is projected by many to become the largest in the world, and world oil reserves are projected to be in a rapid decline. It is not hard to imagine that the day will come when the Middle East will be in chaos, and the same communist leadership in China that demanded apologies after bringing down one of our spy planes will be demanding apologies after sinking one of our supertankers. It would be nice if the United States weren't trillions of dollars in debt when that day arrived. _
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