So far, this has been a September 10 election. Barack Obama's current lead in the polls is largely a result of the financial crisis which reached critical mass in September and cemented the economy as issue number one. Even though it has gotten slight attention over the past few weeks, national security is more important now than ever because the economy is inextricably tied to it. Anyone who doubts that just needs to be reminded of what the stock market did following the 9/11 attacks -- not to mention the individual effects on the airline, oil and other industries.
That case could (and should) have been made all along, but I admit it might have been a bit difficult to hear it over the frenzy of those attempting to fashion a multi-billion dollar bailout into a bandage to stop the bleeding Dow. Even the first debate, which was scheduled to be on John McCain's strongest issue, foreign policy and national security, was upstaged by the financial crisis and began with a discussion of the problems on Wall Street and the proposed solution. Even worse, McCain allowed Obama to use the debates to lay the blame for the financial crisis on "Bush's failed policies."
Throughout several weeks in September and October, not only did Republicans fail to remind voters how important our national security is to the economic security of the country, but they were ineffective in explaining how the actions (and inaction) of Democrats led to many of the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to the overall sub-prime mortgage mess. McCain did little to remind voters that he had not only warned of a coming crisis in 2005, but had co-sponsored legislation to address it -- legislation Democrats killed. Instead he rushed to Washington to sign onto a big government bailout bill.
Republicans had not only a strong case to make against Democrats on this issue, but even had video of Barney Frank and other Democrats saying there was no problem at Fannie or Freddie and that more loans should be made to those who couldn't afford them. That case, combined with McCain's strength on national security, might have prevented the surge Obama experienced in the polls over the past month. Since mid-September, though, it has been difficult for Republicans to discuss national security, and in the past anytime they have brought the issue up they have been accused of fear mongering. They have been in a bit of a tough spot.
Enter the spectacularly gaffetastic Joe Biden. When Joe Biden said there will almost certainly be (mark his words) a generated international crisis in Obama's first months in office to "test" him, he handed John McCain a great big beautiful gift. When he went on to say that many will question Obama's response to that crisis, he put a big fat bow on top of it. That opened the door for a return to discussion of Obama's comments about meeting with Iran without preconditions, his opposition to the surge in Iraq, and other questions of Obama's judgment relating to foreign policy and how unlikely it is that he would do what it takes to keep America safe.
Thanks to the Bush administration's success in preventing attacks over the past seven years, most Americans see the world much as they did on September 10, 2001. When I recently attended the North Carolina State Fair, not only was my backpack not checked, but I didn't even see a security guard when I entered the gate. I thought back on October 2001 and how thoroughly everything we took into the fairgrounds was searched and how I noticed anytime anyone set a bag on the ground, making sure they did not walk away from it.
At the airport we are still checked almost as well as we were immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but it has simply become a routine. I no longer think about it like I did when the shoe checks and other new rules were first instituted. I suspect that most are like me in that respect and in many ways are now living in a September 10 state of mind.
Although the issue is no longer at the top of many voters' checklists, it is more important now than ever that we not risk another terrorist attack. Voters should realize that not only would another attack cost precious lives, but now more than ever we would also pay in dollars and cents.
Biden's comments opened the door to the issue of national security, but since then several things have happened to draw additional attention in that direction. These are things voters should consider before casting their ballots.
Democrat Barney Frank recently expressed his desire to see the U.S. military budget cut by twenty-five percent. With a Democrat President and majorities in the House and Senate there would not be much to stop him. A group of veterans led by retiring Virginia Senator John Warner warned of dire consequences in a press conference this week. "If a cut of that magnitude were to hit, it would reduce our economy, but we think professionally, all of us, it would weaken our nation's defense."
Former prisoner of war Capt. John Coffee was a bit more direct, "Hell, yes, we're going to be less safe. It's not rocket science, when you reduce our defense spending by 25 percent."
"Senator Obama doesn't have a clue about the military, honest to God. I don't think he's even been around them," added Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Pat Bradley.
Groups comprised of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced several ads in support of John McCain, with many of them pointing out that Obama did not support the troop surge in Iraq. Obama did not believe the surge would work. He said we could not win in Iraq. Harry Reid said we had already lost. If Obama had been president two years ago he would have withdrawn our troops in defeat and disgrace and the country of Iraq would now be a haven for terrorists. Al Qaeda and Iran would be heralding their defeat of the Great Satan.
This week Al Qaeda posted a video on the internet which included a pre-election message. Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, "O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him."
On policy regarding Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and other hot spots, Barack Obama is very vulnerable. For the next four days that is where I would hit him hardest, while at the same time making the case that a strong foreign policy and national security make for strong economic security, and also continuing the successful tax message McCain has been making.
Due to the money Obama has spent, the media participation in the election on his behalf, and the mayhem that is ACORN voter registration, John McCain faces what appears to be an almost impossible feat. The key word there is "almost." It would be much easier if he had a couple of weeks to go, but he only has about four days. I hope he makes the most of them.