The Worst Endorsement of All.
In 2004, a couple of weeks before the presidential election, John Kerry was edging ahead in the national polls. It looked for a moment like he might be able to unseat the sitting president, who was coming under continuous fire over his decision to invade and occupy Iraq. But then the unthinkable happened and the race tipped in Bush's favor. A "new" video appeared featuring the figure that was then still the national bogeyman- Osama bin Laden. The historical narrative says that this interruption in US politics made voters reconsider their decisions by reminding them of Bush's "War on Terror". I'm not completely sure I buy that (I think the Swift-boating had just as much to do with Kerry's defeat), but John Kerry himself blames the video release for his loss.
There is some reason to believe that the concerted efforts of Bush supporters working to tie Kerry to the terrorists had an effect on the 2004 election outcome. Shortly before November of that year, Republican stalwart Orrin Hatch memorably claimed that the terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry." Speaker of the House Denny Hastert reinforced those sentiments: "I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops." Even the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage chimed in with his assertion that Iraqi "terrorists" were "trying to influence the election against President Bush."
Naturally bloggers followed the example of their elected officials and provided an echo chamber for these scandalous accusations. Back then a young Bush spokesman (and disciple of Karl Rove) named Steve Schmidt seemed to encourage such attacks: "Those statements speak to the great concern many people have about John Kerry's consistent vacillation under political pressure on the most significant issues the nation faces with regard to the war on terror." It's ironic that Steve Schmidt (now John McCain's chief campaign strategist) has been going back to the well, and using similar tactics to tie his latest opponent to terrorism. In fact that is what his entire focus has been over the last few weeks, with his repeated references to Bil Ayers.
Once again amateur online pundits are following Schmidt's lead, and they are employing the most divisive rhetoric imaginable. They have been quick to report the words of President Ahmadinejad, Hamas and Muammar Qaddafi, seeking to tie Obama to "terrorism". But interestingly, they have been notably quiet about the most recent endorsement coming from actual terrorists. It turns out that Al Qaeda is supporting McCain for president. The McCain campaign has been tripping all over itself, trying to distance themselves from this particular nod. The most awkward rationalization they've developed so far is that Al Qaeda is using "reverse psychology" to affect American electoral politics. One has to wonder why they didn't come up with that when Hamas made its "endorsement".
Of course I'm getting a bit of amusement watching this story play out. There are many US security experts that remain unsurprised about Al Qaeda's pick. Some have been expecting the terrorists to "vote" before the election by executing a high-profile attack, which would likely flip the polls in favor of McCain. It's really pretty obvious (to those that are actually well-informed) why Al Qaeda would prefer the pro-war GOP (neocon) rule, because that party consistently plays into its hands by destabilizing the Middle East with its aggressive and ham-handed foreign policy. Al Qaeda* is made up of Sunni Muslims who would be threatened by Obama's strategy of negotiating with Shi'ites such as those who rule Iran. They would much rather see Israel (or the US Armed Forces) bomb that nation with McCain's support.
* According to Al Qaeda ideology, the four biggest "enemies of Islam" are Israel, America, Heretics, and the Shia. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq) called Shi'ites "the most evil of mankind . . . the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom". It reminds me of the charges the Republicans have leveled against the Democrats lately.