McCain's "Bring 'Em On" Election Strategy
While a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland would be a tragedy for the American people, it would apparently be viewed as a blessing by the campaign of John McCain. On the same day that USA Today reported that terrorism is the only issue on which Americans clearly prefer John McCain to Barack Obama, McCain senior strategist Charlie Black admitted of another terror strike here, "certainly it would be a big advantage to him."
As it turns out, John McCain and his surrogates not only believe that what's good for Al Qaeda is good for Republican prospects in the fall. They also argue the flip-side of the terror card: merely the specter of an Obama presidency would help achieve the GOP's second goal, an attack on Iran. Call it John McCain's "Bring 'Em On" strategy.
On Monday, John McCain claimed to reject and Charlie Black claimed to apologize for Black's invitation of an Al Qaeda attack. Sadly, McCain has a proven track record of extolling the virtues of terror threats as a tonic for Republican electoral misfortunes.
McCain said as much in the run-up to the 2004 election. Referring to a recently released tape from the still at-large Osama Bin Laden, McCain in October 2004 saw the upside for President Bush's prospects:
"I think it's very helpful to President Bush. It focuses America's attention on the war on terrorism. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it does have an effect."
In December 2007, McCain also saw the carnage and chaos in Pakistan as a potential boon to his own White House hopes. When it came to highlighting his much-hyped national security cred, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was all good. While her murder and the tumult it produced was "an unfortunate event," to again quote Charlie Black, "it helped us." As CNN's Dana Bash noted Monday, McCain concurred with Black's assessment that Bhutto's killing "reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief:"
BASH: I was actually with Sen. McCain the very day that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated...He really did understand from that moment that this was something that he thought could help him in the race at that point to be the Republican nominee. In fact, at that event that very day I asked Sen. McCain if he thought it would help his political campaign and he said pretty much "Yes." So it's not a secret that back then that Sen. McCain and his campaign thought it would help.
But even failing the arrival of the wished-for Al Qaeda Kicker for McCain, his neo-conservatives allies still have another terror card up their sleeves. Just the likelihood of Barack Obama's election, they warn, will certainly lead to the bombing of Iran before the year is out, either by President Bush or by Israel.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday this past weekend, Bill Kristol told host Chris Wallace that rather than allow a change of course towards Tehran by Obama, President Bush might well "launch a military strike" before or after the election:
WALLACE: So, you're suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama's going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?
KRISTOL: I don't know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can't - it's hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.
Meanwhile, former UN ambassador and McCain hardliner John Bolton contended the same day that if George W. Bush didn't attack Israel before the start of an Obama presidency, the Israelis would:
"I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next President. I don't think they will do anything before our election because they don't want to affect it. And they'td have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush's term in office or wait for his successor."
(As if on cue, it was revealed that Israel conducted a massive aerial exercise in the Mediterranean earlier this month, featuring over 100 F-16 and F-15 planes in what many saw as a simulated assault on the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.)
Ironically, John McCain released an ad just three weeks ago designed to distance himself from George W. Bush by proclaiming, "only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war." But while tweaking Bush's foolish belligerence as exemplified by statements like "dead or alive," "bring 'em on," "I'm a little envious" and "kick ass," McCain only served to highlight his own. McCain, after all, joked that he would "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" and claimed he would follow Osama Bin Laden to "the gates of hell." McCain, too, announced that he is the "worst nightmare" of Hamas and Al Qaeda.
But should they attack the United States between now and November, as McCain suggested in 2004, "I think it's very helpful."