On Quoting bin Laden
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; 12:46 PM
The spectacle of the president of the United States extensively quoting Osama bin Laden to bolster his controversial policies during political season deserves notice, and reflection.
By all rights, President Bush ought to be embarrassed that the al Qaeda leader who masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks remains at large almost five years later.
But Bush yesterday let bin Laden share his bulliest of pulpits, giving the mass murderer precisely the attention he craves and endorsing his extreme view that a Third World War is under way.
Here's the text of Bush's speech.
Mentioning bin Laden so much couldn't help but remind listeners of Bush's failure to capture or kill him. But the risk was easily offset by the fact that bin Laden remains the most effective bogeyman out there, and job one for the White House in the run-up to a potentially crippling mid-term election is to scare the hell out of people.
Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush issued a stern warning yesterday about what he called the continuing terrorist threat confronting the nation, using the haunting words of Islamic extremists to support his assertion that they remain determined to attack the United States.
"Abandoning his practice of only rarely mentioning al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Bush repeatedly quoted him and purported terrorist letters, recordings and documents to make his case that terrorists have broad totalitarian ambitions and believe the war in Iraq is a key theater in a wider struggle."
Notably, in the New York Times this morning, Bush's speech not only doesn't make the front page -- it doesn't even get its own story.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes: "President Bush and Congressional Democrats locked horns on Tuesday on whether Americans are safe from terrorism, part of a calculated effort by both parties to capitalize on the coming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and gain the upper hand in this year's election debate over national security."
And Stolberg notes: "The speech used a classic strategy of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, who specializes in turning a candidate's weakness into a strength. In this case, Mr. Bush's weakness is that Mr. bin Laden has not been captured -- a point that was quickly picked up by Democrats. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said that if Mr. Bush had 'unleashed the American military to do the job at Tora Bora four years ago and killed Osama bin Laden, he wouldn't have to quote this barbarian's words today.'
"That did not stop Mr. Bush from mentioning Mr. bin Laden 17 times in the 44-minute speech, a tactic that seemed intended to emphasize the Republican argument that the nation can trust the president and his party more than Democrats to protect it from attacks."
Nedra Pickler writes for the Associated Press: "Voters were never more united behind the president than in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and his speech was designed to convince Americans that the threat has not faded five years later."