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Who gets the bin Laden vote? 

Fearmongering sets the stage for ugly talk in the race for the White House

History will mark Cal Thomas among the first of the public fearmongers to come out and say it, in so many words. To say that to elect Barack Obama as president raises the specter of his assassination, with the subsequent mayhem that attended the Kennedy murders, when "crushed hope produced rebellion, even anarchy, along with despair."

Old Cal sure got the despair part right. He may even entertain the notion that any Republican administration from Reagan on has done something to ease that bleak mood.

He asserts that "Hope must be grounded in objective truth otherwise it becomes wishful thinking," which might not sit well with some of his evangelical readers. This sort of jingoism is as old as journalism, but when blather gets intellectually irresponsible it becomes something else. Is it simple bigotry, cloaked in literate paragraphs? Or just plain ignorance?

In any case, the ability to dissemble historical facts and not appear disingenuous is a learned skill. And one questions Thomas' abilities as a student. Nonetheless, more expressions of cynicism and danger, and righteous declarations of horrible dread, will issue forth in the coming months. There may not be blood, but there will be ugliness. Thomas is just first out of the gate

You can bet that some downright despicable comments will be heard as more mouthbreathers emerge into the light. Their previous efforts, which carried George W. Bush to a second term, have produced tangible results. Some 200,000 people, who would otherwise be alive, are dead. More than 4 million people are refugees, cast from their homes and scrambling to stay alive. "Only" about 10,000 of the dead were Americans, which necessarily includes those who died in New York in 2001 the nation has agreed to the price. Until now.

National security isn't a partisan issue, and nobody disputes that it must be the federal government's first priority. But to overlook the stumbling efforts of seven years to do the job is the work of fools. To suggest that a surfeit of hope puts the country at risk is simplistic nonsense. The doubting Thomas asks if an Obama presidency "might be a fatal mistake by electing someone upon whom too many of us projected ungrounded hope?"

Fatal? Thousands more deaths than we've witnessed? Millions? The bogeyman may not be dead, but like it or not, another Republican administration would be job security for terrorists. Not that the fanatics would quit and go home, but we can take reassurance in the prospect of a more effective response to those who cloak murder in politics or religion. And that's why the bin Laden vote will necessarily go to the Democratic candidate. Not because he might hope to cut a deal with Clinton or Obama, but because he knows that McCain will play tough, ensuring that the enlistment of anti-American recruits will continue, the money and weapons will keep coming, the cave will be well furnished, and bin Laden can put out the occasional grave video. So with fear as his only international ballistic weapon, bin Laden will naturally profess support for the Democrats just to frighten folks into voting for McCain.

So yes, hope has blossomed once again, as it did in 1960. But the notion that the current phenomenon is some fuzzy aspiration or nostalgic na'vete is a serious misunderstanding of the situation. And to fly the threat of presidential assassination in a nationally syndicated column is reprehensible, though certainly within the journalist's rights. This sort of diatribe, including Thomas' assertion that Obama is a snake oil salesman, shows the ugly side of the so-called conservative faction. Let's hope that by now the American electorate can recognize a con when they see one. Or do more than hope.

And yes, hope may be all that some of us, getting into the closing hours of our shifts, have left: some hope, however small, that our children and theirs will be afforded a sane world, that most of the planet will remain for them to wander, and that we can help them get there. This may be the least we can do for those coming along after us. But we can do this.

Tod Rafferty is a freelance journalist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments to the editor at [email protected].

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