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Democrats play the fear card

Bill Rinner | Thursday, October 28, 2004

After Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that John Kerry’s approach to fighting terrorism is more conducive to terrorist attacks on America than the incumbent’s, Democratic talking heads had a field day grumbling about Republican fear-mongering on the campaign path. Keeping true to their hypocrisy, Democrats have excused similar tactics of instilling fear into the electorate as long as Bush happens to be the target.

Embracing a no-holds-barred approach to defeating President Bush and installing the hollow man John Kerry to placate the liberal masses whose stomachs churn at the prospect of four more years of “nuclear” being mispronounced on a semi-regular basis, Democrats have subtly and unsubtly intimated that Bush’s policies pave the road to national disaster.

On the question of national security, fear is a natural byproduct of the debate over which candidate will provide a more sound and effective approach to preventing terrorist attacks against America. While political analysts cried havoc over Cheney’s rhetoric, few complaints emerged about Ted Kennedy’s equally alarmist warning made in a speech at George Washington University in late September.

Kennedy warned that “the war in Iraq has made a mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely,” and that “the only thing America has to fear is four more years of George Bush.”

The feisty senator’s comment echoes Cheney’s own words, which sound less alarmist and more “nuanced” when placed in proper context. Rather than directly warning the electorate that a Kerry vote is synonymous with increasing risk of terrorist attack, he referenced a potential attack to express concern of falling into the pre-September 11 mindset of treating terrorism as a problem of law enforcement: precisely the message that Kerry has imparted time and again.

Since the first duty of a president is to provide for the common defense, both candidates and their surrogates may justifiably fan the flames of fear over national security, but Democrats have routinely issued unfounded warnings about the dangers of reelecting Bush to a second term.

A favorite topic among Democrat critics is the myth of disenfranchisement in the 2000 election, now frequently repeated to present Bush and Republicans as attempting to suppress the black vote. Taking solace in the comforting notion that no Republican can win an election without directly disenfranchising the voter, embittered Al Gore-supporters have repeated the myth ad nauseam without producing credible evidence. Janet Reno, still serving as attorney general in late 2000, and Gore’s team of lawyers failed to corroborate wild claims beyond isolated instances that did not suggest a pervasive trend.

Fast-forwarding to the current election, John Kerry routinely states that he will not allow “one million African Americans being denied their right to exercise the vote” as his standard line when touring black churches along the campaign trail. Instilling a sense of fear, in this case baseless, serves to energize (or simply enrage) his traditional base. The historical truth of the matter is but a mere triviality, and reporters are more likely to investigate the latest Elvis sighting than the veracity of his claims.

Unlike Bill Clinton, who exuded sympathy and was once dubbed “the first black president,” Kerry’s awkward attempts to transcend his elitist heritage have met limited success. What better way to mobilize the black vote than to portray Bush as deviously attempting to limit their influence?

One egregious example of anti-Bush fear-mongering recently found its way into my email box from a concerned yet deluded liberal friend afraid that Bush’s second term will hail the reinstatement of the military draft, despite the near-consensus of expert military opinion to the contrary. Few events can cause more fear than the prospect of being rounded up by the government and sent to the front lines to fight the enemy, and hinting at the possibility of a draft serves as the perfect means to inspire naïve young voters to the polling booths.

Last year, Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings and Democratic Representative Charles Rangel introduced two draft bills in a cynical attempt to voice their distaste with the administration’s policies. They argued that their draft bills would help remedy the purported racial gap in active military service and even declared all women eligible as well, as everyone between ages 18 and 26 could be drafted without college deferments. Both sponsors of the bill are strong critics of the administration and continued American military efforts in general, and they kept silent when conspiracy theorists claimed that Bush continues to push for a draft.

However, both bills died in Congress, the administration has taken a unanimous stance against the necessity of a draft, a vast majority of active senior military personnel dismiss the exaggerated claim, and open public records would indicate whether any similar proposals have momentum. Rock the Vote, the MTV outfit that claims to be non-partisan but harps on Democratic talking points as their modus operandi, still discusses the draft as an important factor to consider for the election, on par with jobs and the national debt.

Next week’s election may be one of the most important of our generation, and the anti-Bush desperation manifests itself all too clearly while reasonable voices drown in the baseless rhetoric.

Bill Rinner is a senior economics major. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at wrinner@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.