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October 31, 2004 - The New Bin Laden Videotape

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Friday, while I was at work, it seems a new videotape was released – Osama Bin Laden saying, as I understood it on the way home listening to the news while stuck in traffic on Los Feliz near the turn to the Los Angeles Zoo, that neither Bush nor Kerry could keep us safe – it wasn’t the particular President that was the problem.  Our Middle East policy was the problem.  Our actions in that area over the last decades were the problem.  Our policy in regard to Israel and the Palestinians was the problem. 


He didn’t exactly endorse Kerry and call for the defeat of Bush – although he said insulting things about Bush reading “My Pet Goat” to those kids instead of springing into action way back when.  Maybe he said equally insulting things about John Kerry, but I didn’t catch that.  But this fellow doesn’t have to follow our “equal time” rules for broadcast discussion of the candidates.  I don’t think he’s worried about an FCC fine for not distributing his ridicule equally.  Yep, he wasn’t fair and balanced.


What effect this will have on the election is unclear.  Reuters ran a story immediately with the headline Bin Laden Tape Could Help Bush – Analysts.  But then more folks said, well, maybe not.  The voices on my car radio pointed out some folks might be reminded Bush swore he’d get this guy “dead or alive,” and that “he could run but he couldn’t hide” – then later said this one guy didn’t matter in the grand scheme of the War on Terror – then later said he did and we’d get him.  Whatever. 


Too the tape could be seen as Osama Bin Laden taunting George Bush – “I am responsible for the Manhattan and Pentagon massacres and I’m still here.  You got Saddam and his sons.  So what were you thinking?” 


On the other hand, the Bush campaign seems pleased with the new tape and is using it to point out that the real bad guy is still out there, that the world is still unbelievably dangerous and we could all die horrible deaths if we elect someone careful and thoughtful and curious like John Kerry.  We need Bush – angry, single-minded if not monomaniacal, inattentive to detail, and stunningly simple-minded.  We need that kind of focus.  Many are convinced we do.


But everyone, I could sense, strays from the actual content of the videotape – the main point.  The direct and unambiguous message was that it doesn’t matter who we elect.  Osama Bin Laden seems to be saying, again, that we should rethink our policy toward the Arab and Muslim world, and demonstrate some concern for those who think differently than we think – or we’ll all die horrible deaths, even if by some chance Ralph Nader wins.


When I finally got home from work I logged onto the net for more comment.  My cable was still out, as it had been since Monday, so I had no access to CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and PBS for their talking heads.  My dial-up connection is slow but a few hits gave me a sense of what the web logs were saying.


Everyone seems to be trying to figure out how Osama Bin Laden is attempting to influence our election, even if he explicitly said he really did not think who is elected next week matters at all.


My favorite comment was from Wonkette -


Oops.  He's alive.  And he's condemning Bush.  Which of course means that he wants Kerry to win.  Unless he really wants Bush to win and is just by default endorsing Kerry in order to get people to vote for Bush out of spite.  But then again, if we're smart enough to figure that out, then maybe Osama knows that, too and he really wants Kerry to win, and is endorsing Kerry so that people will at first learn toward voting for Bush but then think that's what Osama wants….  So confusing.  Clearly, we've fallen for one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia"; but only slightly less well known is this: "Do not read about goats when death is on the line."


That about captures it.  Americans are not particularly good at actually listening to what others say.


Late note -


As Maureen Dowd puts it in the New York Times on October 31st discussing this videotape and how the Bush folks will use it -


The Bushies' campaign pitch follows their usual backward logic: Because we have failed to make you safe, you should re-elect us to make you safer. Because we haven't caught Osama in three years, you need us to catch Osama in the next four years. Because we didn't bother to secure explosives in Iraq, you can count on us to make sure those explosives aren't used against you.


You'd think that seeing Osama looking fit as a fiddle and ready for hate would spark anger at the Bush administration's cynical diversion of the war on Al Qaeda to the war on Saddam. It's absurd that we're mired in Iraq - an invasion the demented vice president praised on Friday for its "brilliance" - while the 9/11 mastermind nonchalantly pops up anytime he wants. For some, it seemed cartoonish, with Osama as Road Runner beeping by Wile E. Bush as Dick Cheney and Rummy run the Acme/Halliburton explosives company - now under F.B.I. investigation for its no-bid contracts on anvils, axle grease (guaranteed slippery) and dehydrated boulders (just add water).


Wait a second here!  I get the reference to the fifties MGM musical Singing in the Rain and the bouncy tune “Fit as a Fiddle and Ready for Love.”  And I’ve watched enough Warner Brothers Road Runner cartoons that I’m familiar with Wily Coyote and the awful products he uses from the hypothetical Acme Corporation.  I live in Hollywood, damn it!  But what is Dowd up to with all this?


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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