October surprises seem so passé and almost tame in these waning days of Election 2006; instead of surprises, we have unrelenting bloody assaults of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” variety. October Surprises are, of course, a proven strategy; the new October Assaults just take it one step further and go for the kill. Oddly enough, it is a one-sided, ideological war –– the far left against conservatives. While the left is waging guerilla warfare, the right is either reeling or poring over election maps for street-by-street voter outreach.
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, has her troops lined up for unrelenting wave after wave of politics-of-personal-destruction attacks on what she calls “corrupt” conservatives. Rahm Emanuel, the 47-year-old chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is said to be driving himself to exhaustion implementing his “cold-hearted” strategies for winning the House and Senate for his party.
Funny how CNN picks the weeks just before the election to feature Lou Dobbs leading official-looking town hall meetings somberly lamenting the “war on the middle class.” Of course, he is pushing his book by that title! No one seems to question such a far-fetched idea even though the Dow is at record highs, unemployment is near all-time lows, gas prices are down about a dollar per gallon and the time you have to wait to get a table at Outback Steak House seems longer every time you go there.
The mainstream media is deluging the public with stories about evil right-wing religious zealots who supposedly “control” conservative politics and are out to take over American culture. The minor cable channels are running drivel 24/7 about the Foley scandal, and the gossip mill is full of rumors about every possible conservative closet-homosexual.
Consider also the books released for maximum impact on the upcoming 2006 election. Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, excerpted in Newsweek, savages the Bush Administration’s handling of the War in Iraq (and makes you wonder what insights he would have offered about Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War). David Kuo’s Tempting Faith lashes out at the faith-based initiative that has been a signature element of President Bush’s domestic policy.
Also, this week, the second annual National Leadership Index (NLI) was released by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and U.S. News and World Report. The NLI “reveals” that Americans are “dissatisfied” with national leaders and believe that they are “too consumed with politics and not in touch with average people.”
Is anybody surprised that the all-out political assaults are affecting public opinion polls? Cold-hearted strategies can be highly effective. Full frontal assaults can do a lot of damage.
When truth is optional, there is no end to the damage that can be done in the run-up to an election.
Weeks too late, The New York Times’ (NYT) Public Editor, Byron Calame, has retracted his support for the Gray Lady’s exposure of the SWIFT program –– the secret money tracking program the Administration was using to find terrorists. Calame now says that the program was legal and that nobody’s private data was threatened in any way. What made him act in such an irresponsible way in the first place? The Administration’s “vicious criticism” of The New York Times after the original, erroneous article was published is what made him do it.
Albert Fernandez, Director of Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department, apologized this week for anti-American statements that he made in a recent interview, in Arabic no less, with Al-Jazeera –– the terrorist propaganda network of choice. Of course, there is no way that Al-Jazeera will broadcast his apology in a way that will erase all the damage he caused when he accused the U.S. of “arrogance and stupidity” in Iraq. There is no way, either, to keep Al-Jazeera from continuing to broadcast Fernandez’ praise for Yusuf al Qaradawi, a jihadist that the State Department official described as “a religious leader worthy of the deepest respect.” How can the American public ignore the fact that a high-ranking State Department spokesman gave support to the enemy while American soldiers are at war with the terrorists who get their information from that propaganda network?
So, who will prevail? Will the victors be the data crunching wonks with their get-out-the-vote strategies or the “hate America” national security wimps who are destroying all opposition in their lust for political dominance? Political ethics are at stake, but so are the principles of freedom and democracy. Can a nation long survive if every election becomes a matter of who is left standing after the Machiavellian political hacks slash and burn their way through the culture and media, if every election is reduced to wonks vs. wimps?