Friday, October 1, 2004

Fear not


Michael Ames, former Publisher of The Street, remains an ?undecided? voter.

Dick Cheney?s statement that a vote for John Kerry would spell devastating terror-borne horror on our shores was a brilliant, if low-down-dirty, move. The evil genius Vice President understands the immense power of fear in politics.

Manufactured fear built national support for the Bush administration?s Iraq war?the ominous smoking gun of a mushroom cloud?and is again the perfect crude instrument of manipulation for the final acts of the election saga. Still, it takes the most lethal Republican operative to have the courage to deliver their most important message: Vote for Kerry and DIE.

Since 9/11, the collective imagination has been in overdrive, striving to stay one step ahead of doomsday terrorist plots so that, when or if the unthinkable occurs, we won?t be shocked into paralysis. Briefcase nukes. Poisoned water supplies. Nerve gas. The media plants the seeds of panic, the nightmare scenarios take root, and the fear grows.

On softer issues, on backseat domestic concerns such as health care, the environment, and abortion, mortality still plays a role. But compared to the mass death of a nuclear detonation in Times Square, an uninsured New Yorker feels downright immortal. Compared to a poisoning of Chicago?s water supply, the carcinogenic levels of mercury in our fish is a footnote. The nightmare of back alley abortions seems a distant and unlikely future for American women more concerned with terrorism. Domestic issues deal with life and death, but in terms so removed from our immediate and palpable fear, they carry little weight. Possible Death Later always loses votes to Certain Death Now.

The President?s campaign is all too aware of the trend. Karl Rove and the Republican machine were good before, but with a national death scare, they could prove unbeatable.

And so President Bush is able to distract from the seismic cultural shifts that a sequel term could spell. Will he appoint two, three or five Paleolithic Supreme Court justices with dreams of a capsized Roe v. Wade? Will he continue pampering industry while scoffing at scientifically proven environmental safeguarding? Will he pass the first ever big-oted constitutional amendment? ?Don?t worry,? he?ll say with a shrug and an aw-shucks grin. ?I am going to spread freedom to all humans on earth,? will be his predictable, lofty, and meaningless reply.

What can John Kerry do? Some ideas for the next 31 days:

Like your foes, make yourself canine and sniff out fear, but rather then exploit it, speak to it in convincing ways. Speak to safety and convince us what the non-Fox-News-watching-world already knows: Bush is dangerous.

Repeat yourself, over and over again, with the same dogged, numbing relentlessness of your enemy, that the grim reality in Iraq is a far cry from the saccharin spin spewing from the White House; that Bush?s policies have done more to strengthen our enemy?s ideologies and recruit new generations of jihadists than to keep us safe.

Please, remind the country of the growing chaos, the mounting GI death toll, the Queen-of-hearts pace at which Western heads roll. Let?s hear that the war on radical Islamic terrorism must be fought by all democracies and that victory?s lone hope lies in unprecedented international cooperation, the very environment of Sept. 11, 2001, that George Bush so comprehensively squandered.

If Kerry wants to deliver on his promises as a ?strong closer,? he must be willing to get dirty. The Republicans have called a dogfight and any effort to stay above the fray is sure to fizzle out into that typified Democratic stereotype: weak kneed, spineless, Chardonnay-sipping elitism.

Rather, lets see fire fought with fire. Let?s see John Kerry counter totally and vigorously and provide the voters with their most basic American right: informed decision.

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