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Cheney uses fear to garner votes

Vice President Cheney sank to a new low on Tuesday when he warned voters that they’d invite another terrorist attack if they elect Sen. John F. Kerry as president.

With no hint of shame, Cheney told a crowd in Iowa: “It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 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, 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 are not really at war.”

Attention, voters! The election-threat level has been elevated to orange. Be very afraid. If you vote for our opponents, the blood will be on your hands.

Cheney’s scaremongering was unworthy of his office. He and President Bush are free to find fault with Kerry’s ideas on terrorism or his Senate voting record on military issues (though it would help if they described that record truthfully before trashing it).

But predicting terrorist attacks as a result of an election amounts to using fear to mine for votes.

To hear Cheney claim that he and President Bush are uniquely qualified to counter terrorism, you’d never know that it was on their watch that 3,000 Americans were killed in the worst terrorist attack ever in the United States. By no means were they uniquely responsible, as the 9/11 panel made clear. But neither were they free of fault or blame, as the panel’s report also made quite clear.

Let’s continue a review of the record: Which presidential ticket has failed for three years to capture the terrorist most responsible, Osama bin Laden? Bush-Cheney.

Which team crippled the effort to crush bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by waging a war in Iraq that diverted resources, cost more than 1,000 American souls, sapped the Treasury of at least $150 billion, and failed to turn up any WMD? Bush-Cheney.

Which “pre-9/11 mind-set” was Cheney referring to: The mind-set of the Clinton administration, which tried to kill bin Laden? Or the mind-set of the Bush-Cheney team, which all but ignored bin Laden until the Twin Towers were smoking rubble? Their rhetoric has made it sound as though, after the attacks, a Democratic president would have shrugged and gone on with business as usual. That is ridiculous.

The only laudable aspect here is that Cheney had the guts to utter his claim in person, rather than to rely on a surrogate such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Even so, Cheney’s spokeswoman later tried to spin his words, saying he “wasn’t trying to connect the dots” between a Kerry victory and another terrorist attack.

She’s right. He connected them.

Americans understand, Mr. Vice President, that we are at war. Every week the flag-draped coffins return home. The question, despite the rhetoric of your campaign, is whether the costly war on Iraq really has made Americans safer.

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