As we get closer to November 4th, there is speculation in the press that we may become subject to an October Surprise. Not by John McCain, mind you, but from someone only slightly more sinister. Osama bin Laden. The prevailing theory is that Mr. bin Laden would like to keep his hands in American politics, by making some kind of nuisance of himself prior to the election. He did this in 2004, by releasing a somewhat threatening tape to the press just before the election, which many observers at the time felt contributed to John Kerry’s defeat by George “Mission Accomplished” Bush. The margin of victory was so slim for Bush, that it’s not unlikely this was true. The somewhat natural inclination of the voting public seems to be that in times of military threat, they vote Republican, on the theory that the Republicans are militaristic war mongers and more likely to protect us, while Democrats or insipid, spineless milquetoasts who run from their own shadows. At least, that’s the caricature that makes the rounds as political wisdom.
So if bin Laden unleashes a tape at best, or an attack at worst, just before the election, what should we make of that? That he wants to have a say in the American electoral process, by trying to affect the voting? It’s possible. However, if he knows that our natural inclination is to hide behind Republican skirts when he says “boo!”, then what is his motivation, when having a Republican in office is perceived to mean a more aggressive stance against him in American foreign policy.
It seems to me that bin Laden knows that he cannot defeat the Great Satan America with a few hijacked planes every few years. We are too big, too powerful, to omnipotent if you will, to defeat militarily, especially when you lead a rag tag army of militant religious fanatics armed primarily with small automatic weaponry. No, the best way to defeat us is to bankrupt us, thereby causing our collapse from within. And what better way to do that than to convince us to vote for someone willing to spend billions, even trillions, of dollars in resources trying to track down and punish the bearded Islamic fruitcake responsible for 9/11. All he has to do is jump out from behind a tree, wiggle his fingers in his ears and yell “booga booga” then jump back in his cave, and we run shrieking into the arms of our Republican candidates. This works well in Warner Brother’s cartoons, but as a national response it leaves much to be desired. It did succeed quite nicely for bin Laden in 2004, with Bush’s foreign and domestic policies continuing for four more years, culminating in an economy on the verge of collapse, and our country more and more dependent on our enemies. But if we are rational, intelligent people who learn from their mistakes, it should not work again.
So, if we hear from bin Laden just before the election, we should not follow conventional wisdom and react stupidly by electing McCain, because that’s exactly what he wants us to do. Another four years of disastrous Republican policies, and bin Laden can metaphorically sit back and retire to the French Riviera, if he was so inclined. No, we should resist the temptation to fall for his ploy, and elect Obama.
No point in allowing bin Laden to have the last laugh.