07/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

FearWatch '08: The McCain Campaign Takes Feargasm Advice From Bill Kristol

Holy crap on a stick. Bill Kristol -- who has been so wrong so often that he was somehow rewarded with a job at the New York Times -- might have actually been right about something political. For once. Back on February 17 on the self-satirical FOX News Sunday program, Kristol made a prediction:

KRISTOL: the end of the day it'll be McCain against Obama in a national security election. The Democrats can say Nancy Pelosi's fond of quoting Franklin Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." We do have something to fear but fear itself. We have terrorists to fear and we have people who want to kill Americans to fear. And people who totally want to destabilize the Middle East to fear. And I think that's a pretty good argument for McCain to make against Obama.

In addition to being one of the most grotesque examples of a far-right feargasm, and also ignoring the fact that the Bush administration has destabilized the Middle East, Kristol had the audacity to both poo-poo the anti-fear message of President Roosevelt, while also managing, in that process, to suggest that terrorism is more worthy of our collective fear than was the Great Depression. To that argument, thanks to Kristol and the policies of the Bush administration, we might yet be able to form an accurate, modern comparison between these "threats" as we grow dangerously close to revisiting the Depression while simultaneously fighting terrorism. Heckuva job!

And so, remarkably enough, Kristol appears to have been exactly right with his prediction that the general election would revolve around fear. But how can this be? He was wrong on Iraq; he was wrong about the surge; he was wrong about the success of the Bush administration. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The secret behind this magic trick is that it wasn't a prediction at all, but rather a recommendation to the Republicans and the McBush campaign, and they simply and inexplicably chose to accept Kristol's twisted advice. (Shh! Evidently, the McBushes don't know about Kristol's spotless record of wrongness. So let's keep this between us.)

"Fear... [is] a pretty good argument for McCain to make against Obama," Kristol said back in February. Four months later, that's the argument from the McCain campaign: the tired, inaccurate message that only McCain and the He-Man Republicans are capable of keeping Americans safe from the evildoers. But it's not just the Republicans who are taking this "fear argument" advice. It's also some of the very serious villagers in the corporate media. More on that later.

This week's political news, meanwhile, was dominated by the fear mongering remarks of Senator McCain's chief strategist, the Washington lobbyist Charlie Black. For the record:

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

Irrespective of his subsequent apology, Black most certainly appears to agree with Kristol that both fear and terrorism are good for the Republicans. Well sure. I would imagine that the Republicans will take what they can get at this point. So until their calculation about the political advantages of a terrorist attack on American soil comes to fruition or not, they're using the next best thing: the constant warnings that Senator McCain, who didn't know that al-Qaeda is composed of Sunnis, is the only candidate who can keep us safe from the evildoers.

Senator McCain's non-rejection rejection was typically baffling.

"I cannot imagine why [Black] would say it. It's not true. I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America."

The corporate media, by-in-large, passed this off as a rejection of Black's suggestion that terrorism was good for the campaign. Wrong. Senator McCain didn't appear to be outraged by the context of Black's remarks at all. Instead, the Senator was more appalled at the notion that there could ever possibly be another attack given the awesome McBush anti-terrorism record.

"It's not true," Senator McCain said, implying "it's not true" that there will be another attack. Did you catch that? Senator McCain predicted that there won't be any more attacks on American soil. The terrorist threat is over! Awesome. So can we bring our soldiers home and stop wasting trillions on an overblown and misguided war on terrorism, Senator?

Nah, unfortunately this isn't what Senator McCain meant to imply at all. In reality, it was another hamfisted and abbreviated version of the classic McBush Republican Mobius Loop: "if we stay on the offense, the terrorists lose, but if we stop the war, then the terrorists win so we have to keep fighting forever and ever."

In other words, Senator McCain denounced Black's fear mongering by employing more fear mongering. I've been fighting the terrorists, so vote for me or else.

"We have terrorists to fear... And I think that's a pretty good argument for McCain," Kristol said. Advice submitted; advice taken. And even though Senator McCain didn't truly denounce Black and, instead, basically supported the lobbyist's awful statements, the very serious cable news people are giving Senator McCain a pass on this thing.


Because the very serious commentariat agrees with all of it. All week long we've been hearing on television that what Black said was the truth. That Black's statement made sense. A terrorist attack would help Senator McCain win in November. All true, including the more dangerous subtext of Black's statement that terrorists might have the ability to influence our elections. The lobbyist's only mistake, they said, was that he actually said it out loud.

Not surprising, though, from a realm in which professional broadcasters repeatedly mix up the names "Senator Barack Obama" and "Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden." Not surprising when an on-going topic of televised political conversation revolves around how Senator Obama is "exotic" and "foreign." Both areas only serve to incite fear among racists, dittoheads and the easily-influenced simple folk who believe every forwarded e-mail they receive. (I'm seriously going into business selling robot insurance and monorails to some of these hooples.)

Each of these smears feed the national security issue -- in other words, the notion that if Senator Obama is somehow similar to the scary, exotic Muslim types, then he's going to be weak on terrorism. And as long as there is terrorism, the Republicans win. That's the so-called "truth" of Kristol, McCain, Black and the corporate media at large.

The truth is that the McBush Republicans have only incited more terrorism. For argument's sake, put aside the evaluations of the liberally biased intelligence community. By the accounting of the racist, far-right website Islam: The Religion of Peace, there have been 11,326 deadly terrorist attacks since September 11. 11,326 deadly attacks on the McBush watch, which seems to indicate...hmm... that the policy of invasion, occupation, torture and destabilization has only incited more attacks. I can't imagine how this national security argument helps the McCain campaign in the slightest -- especially if the actual truth is told about the disastrous McBush war on terror.

So... Mr. Kristol? This "good argument" thing? Wrong again, chief.