May 30, 2004
Americaís Most Wanted (Maybe)
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
It has often been said that desperate times require desperate measures. And these are indeed desperate times for the Bush Administration. One has only to look at their latest poll results to know that.
If ever there were a televised event where desperation ran rampant, the Ashcroft-Mueller press conference last Wednesday was it. Here we had the Attorney General and the Director of the F.B.I. stating in no uncertain terms that America was in danger. Terrorists were plotting against us, although neither Ashcroft nor Mueller seemed to know for certain just where these terrorists were. According to both of these gentlemen, these terrorists would soon launch some kind of attack, although neither seemed to know for certain just when, where, or in what form this attack would take place. So why the press conference?
But Ashcroft and Mueller did have pictures. As Mueller went over the seven terroristsí pictures in true "Americaís most wanted" fashion, he failed to mention that details about six of them had already been released months ago by the Justice Department. The only new face was Adam Yahiye Gadahn, aka Adam Pearlman.
Even about Mr. Gadahn, Ashcroft and Mueller seemed not to know much. When asked for specific information about him, Ashcroft deferred to Mueller. Mueller then stumbled his way into saying that Gadahn had grown "up on the West Coast and had converted to Islam fairly [early] in his youth". That much his best friend would know.
But when asked whether criminal charges could be brought against Gadahn, Mueller responded with: "We would evaluate the evidence to determine whether or not charges are appropriate." In essence, the Director of the F.B.I was not even sure that the only new kid on the block had done something sufficiently malicious as to merit arrest. So once again, why the press conference?
Yet Mueller counseled Americans to "remain vigilant" and report any "suspicious activities" to the police or the F.B.I. But he wasnít sure whether any of the terrorists were working together or whether any of them were in the U.S. After hearing him speak these vague uncertainties, you had to wonder why anyone would believe that confiding their suspicions to the police or the F.B.I would bring about any worthwhile result.
So what Ashcroft and Mueller told us was this: we have seven alleged terrorists who may or may not be working together; who may or may not be in the U.S.; who are probably planning some form of attack but we donít where, when, or in what manner it will take place; but who, despite all this uncertainty, should definitely be looked for although some may not even have done anything worthy of arrest.
Noticeably missing from the press conference was Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His absence was important for two reasons. First, he had made a tour of that dayís early morning news shows, stating on ABCís Good Morning America, "that the threats are not the most disturbing I have personally seen during the past couple of years." He also said that, "We could go back over the past two years and pick out reports of pretty much the same substance." Second, under the Homeland Security Act and Bush administration rules, only Ridge is allowed to speak publicly about threat warnings. Thus, the press conference of Messrs. Ashcroft and Mueller was in violation of an act of Congress.
So, finally, why the press conference?
The answer is simple: to sow fear in the land. Because when Americans are afraid, they look to their president for strength and resolve. Convincing displays of strength and resolve are one of the very few skills Mr. Bush has mastered. And he has turned that particular skill to his own benefit time and time again.
But for that skill to have any effect useful to the Bush administration, we would first have to be afraid. Hence, the press conference. Although it more likely provoked epithets of derision or wanton acts of head scratching, the press conference was supposed to make us afraid.
Remember, we were afraid after 9-11. During that period of fear, Mr. Bush effectively exploited that truly sterling photo op with him dressed in a wind breaker, clutching a bull horn, sitting next to a firefighter at ground zero, showing that his strength and resolve were at the ready -- even though he didnít seem to have much else going for him other than a look of steely fortitude and a tone of stern determination. Nevertheless, both then and later, he gave a good working imitation of someone with a clear plan of what to do and how to do it. More importantly, his popularity soared.
Unfortunately, that plan would ultimately lead us to into war in Iraq. But eventually we saw that the war was becoming little more than a meat grinder without any clear end or purpose, and that Bushís administration was in total disarray without any clear direction or vision. His popularity plummeted.
So what better to do than to create some new set of circumstances that would plunge Americans back into fear, even if the circumstances were more imaginary than real. Certainly America would rally around Bush once again, and his popularity would soar.
But if fear didnít work, this press conference would once again focus the nationís attention on terrorism. This renewed attention would help Bush because his handling of terrorism is the one area in which he clearly leads Kerry in the polls.
As to the reason for it all, the answer comes from a most unlikely source, Joe Scarborough. Once a conservative member of Congress from Florida and currently the host of MSNBCís Scarborough Country, he puts it best. "In the end, itís all about getting re-elected, staying in power...Itís disgusting."
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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