A New Low (Perhaps As Low As First Supposed)

From “AP”:http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040907/D84V15AG0.html, via “Josh Marshall”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/, I give you VP Cheney:

“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

This is fearmongering, pure and simple, folks. The notion that terrorists would prefer to attack under one President more than another is ridiculous on its face. The danger exists no matter who wins the election. What we have here is a seed of fear being planted. Cheney doesn’t care that the claim is indefensible nonsense — all that matters is that it gets people nervous and fearful.

I see that the Kerry campaign has a “response”:http://blog.johnkerry.com/blog/archives/002745.html#002745, though unfortunately it’s written in bland campaign-ese, and lacks force. Hopefully they’ll stay on this one and not let it slip through the cracks.

UPDATE: Via a number of people (“Jim”:http://www.highclearing.com first in person, then “Matthew”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/09/the_law_enforce.html) — the above quote turns out to be only the first part of the sentence. Shame on AP. Here’s the whole thing from the transcript:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we’re not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.

Cheney could have avoided a whole lot of trouble by saying “Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that _if_ we get hit again . . .”

So it’s not fearmongering, really, when you look at the whole quote. It’s still nonsense, though, and touches on some of my complaints about the war on terror metaphor. One of the binary choices Republicans are trying to cement in people’s minds is “Being At War vs. Mere Law Enforcement Activity.” To anyone who takes a moment’s thought it should be obvious that Al Qaeda is a threat that doesn’t fit neatly into either of those categories, and that taking them down requires an entirely new approach. The terrorist attacks _aren’t_ just criminal acts, but we _aren’t_ at war either, not in any conventional sense; Cheney’s speech cleverly juxtaposes those two issues so as to reinforce the spurious either/or choice. And the notion that anyone in this country would just blithely fall back into a pre-9/11 mindset is, frankly, insulting.

So, replace “fearmongering” with “a false binary that tries to create the impression that Kerry can’t fight the war on terror.” Which is merely a sort of indirect fearmongering. Anyway, see Matthew Yglesias’ comments (linked above) on the subject as well.

UPDATE: Stop the presses — as “Ed”:http://goesping.org/ notes in the comments, and “as reported”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6629-2004Sep8.html in the Post, the transcript to the speech was changed to a less egregious phrasing, ostensibly to fix a typo. Raise your hand if you believe that.

ONE MORE UPDATE: I just heard that snippet of the speech again on the radio. In Cheney’s phrasing of “we’ll get hit again,” there is no implied “if” clause. Text+intonation clearly imply everything that everyone first supposed he was implying.