I've believed for a long time that the only reason George W. Bush has any chance to extend his exceptionally dangerous worldview and agenda of oligarchy and theocracy into a second term is because of Osama bin Laden and the events of September 11. The Bush appeal, at bottom, is to fear, and a reflex that the man who was (at least nominally) in charge at the moment of crisis is the man to be kept in charge until the crisis is ultimately answered.
With bin Laden resurfacing today in a move that was clearly timed to influence the election, I am feeling great fear as well.
Not of another attack. I live in New York City; I walked home on the morning of 9/11 from my office on Wall Street through smoke and pulverized concrete, and surely worse. If that happens, it happens.
What I fear is that bin Laden and his terrorist allies know just what they're doing, as this communication from last spring, shortly after the Madrid attack, demonstrates:
The declaration turned its attention to President Bush, saying: "A word for the foolish Bush. We are very keen that you do not lose in the forthcoming elections as we know very well that any big attack can bring down your government and this is what we do not want.
"We cannot get anyone who is more foolish than you, who deals with matters with force instead of wisdom and diplomacy.
"Your stupidity and religious extremism is what we want as our people will not awaken from their deep sleep except when there is an enemy.
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation.
"Because of this we desire you [Bush] to be elected."
And he knows that by adding the fear he inspires to that which Bush and Karl Rove have worked so hard to spread, he will put the president over the top.
Bin Laden can't destroy America; he can't corrode our essential strength or goodness or decency. He can't touch our noble principals or offer anything to counter the great deeds of our history.
George W. Bush and his clique of corporate absolutists, armchair Hannibals and would-be theocrats can. And with another four years, they might well. I'm most concerned with what they'll do at home, but bin Laden likely suspects the prospect of more wars, more moves in the direction of that "clash of civilizations" he wants even worse than does Paul Wolfowitz.
Seeing the face of bin Laden on the front page of the New York Times website also brought back to me, in a very immediate and physical way, how much I loathe that man--how much I'd like to kill him with my own two hands. What he did to this country, both in terms of the attack itself and all the dreadful things it served to unleash, was evil beyond description.
He deserves death at the hands of America, not a president who "doesn't care" about him but was more than willing to use the atmosphere of the post-9/11 world to pursue a splendid little war in Iraq.
edit: All the above thoughts notwithstanding, both Bush and Kerry deserve credit for what they've said in response to the bin Laden tape.