We've all seen the ad. Bin Laden, Zawahiri, a ticking time bomb, explosions, a heartbeat and the ominous phrase: "These are the stakes." And it's probably the best ad of this midterm election cycle... for the Democratic Party. Strangely enough, it was an ad paid for and created by... the Republican Party.
Were I Ken Mehlman, Karl Rove or George W. Bush, I don't think I'd spend millions of dollars thrusting Bin Laden up the collective poop-chutes of the nation. Sure, their goal was noble. That is, if you define "noble" as "using al-Qaeda propaganda with the deliberate goal of terrorizing American voters."
But what this advertisement says to me, and hopefully many others, is that the Republican government has utterly failed to capture these murderers and thus the King of All Jihadists remains a threat to America five-plus years after 9/11. This ad tells me that Bin Laden and his chief deputy are still at large due to the incompetent Bush administration and the congressional Republicans who have allowed them to get away with this colossal failure.
What are the stakes? The Republicans have failed to capture the demons featured in the commercial, so... what? Oh right. Of course. We're supposed to re-elect the Republicans who let them go. As the Toronto Star reported Monday, "The Republicans still can't find Osama bin Laden, but they know how to showcase him." Five years simply hasn't been enough time for these tough-talking cowboys -- the shock and awesome messiahs -- the resolute, crisp, lapel flag commandos -- to capture a 6'5" man who's on kidney dialysis and probably hiding within the borders of a so-called allied nation.
The Democratic candidates, meanwhile, have stated across the board that they intend to continue the fight against terrorists by such "weakling" means as implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations within their first 100 hours. Not days -- and certainly not within five years -- 100 hours after they take their oaths in January. They want to increase funding for first responders and stop the White House from cutting $1.1 billion in funding for state and local law enforcement. They want to increase Special Forces numbers to track and kill terrorists and involve the world community in an all-out global manhunt.
And all of that (and the many other programs proposed by the Democrats) make them somehow less capable than the incompetent Bush Republicans who have allowed Bin Laden, their leading spokesman, to run free all this time? The Republicans who, via their misguided Iraq War, have actually increased the threat of terrorism worldwide. The Republicans who would rather shatter the Geneva Conventions, leaving our fighting men and women increasingly vulnerable to being tortured at the hands of our enemies, than unite the world around a common goal -- a goal even the Iranians would've supported after 9/11.
Or maybe, all things being equal the simplest answer is the right one. Bin Laden is a better spokesman for the GOP than is President Bush. Casting Bin Laden in a national GOP commercial is ultimately more effective and LESS damaging for the Republicans than casting the president. In fact, have you seen a single NRCC, NRSC or RNC commercial featuring George W. Bush? Maybe it's not because he's electoral poison right now. Perhaps he's too busy stumping for racists and guys who (allegedly) strangle their mistresses. Or maybe he's too busy betraying his followers by suddenly flip-flopping on his "stay the course in Iraq" pledge. Or maybe George W. Bush has been quoted too often saying he doesn't spend too much time on Bin Laden and hence has let him go. The president not spending time on the Bin Laden issue is a pretty damn big stake, if you ask me or anyone else with an intact brain stem.
And yet the Republicans think their voters are idiots. They believe their voters are naive special needs children who will see Bin Laden with a spooky tick-tock sound and, rather than questioning why he hasn't been captured under the Bush Republicans, will kneejerk into saying, "YNUCK! Mmm-doy -- hey that tick-tock is scaring me and that Bin Laden! IEEEE! The Democrats won't capture him [even though George W. Bush will still be the president after November 7] and we'll all die down dead! These ARE them there stakes! Doy!"
But even though I don't share many of the values of the president's supporters, I don't think they're as stupid as Karl Rove thinks they are. With this commercial, the RNC and the White House are counting on the stupidity of the electorate. They're counting wrong.