Jewish World Review August 30, 2004 / 13 Elul, 5764
Bush message: He keeps us safe
PRESIDENT Bush and the Republicans are in the odd position of having to focus their convention on what didn't happen: For the past three years, there have been no major terrorist attacks in the United States.
Emphasizing something that didn't happen is unusual for any candidate; it summons memories of a Jimmy Buffett song "If the phone doesn't ring, it's me."
But the absence of terrorist attacks is the real message of the Bush campaign and the core of the theme he must present to a waiting and often fearful nation. The key to winning the votes of women thinking of supporting John Kerry is to emphasize the dangers Bush has led us through and the threats he has parried.
But Bush's team should not confuse the message of homeland security with a theme of re-assurance. Confidence and complaisance are the opposite of the messages Bush needs to send. If Americans feel safe and secure, they're likely to vote on economic or other domestic issues and support the Democrats.
It is only by a fair appreciation of the dangers through which we must yet travel and a keen gratitude for the shelter Bush has given us during our past perils that we will see the reason to re-elect this deserving president.
So Bush needs to take convention viewers on a bit of a tour around New York City. The first stop should be the Brooklyn Bridge, which was the object of an al Qaeda plot that the administration and the NYPD foiled, empowered by the provisions of the Patriot Act.
The plot was first discovered when federal intelligence agencies intercepted communications referring to the bridge. Under the Patriot Act, the agencies were obliged to overcome their traditional reluctance to share information (and thus risk their sources), so they alerted the NYPD to the chatter.
The department flooded the bridge with officers and Iyman Faris, the terrorist who was planning to blow up the venerable structure, reported to al Qaeda that the "weather is too hot" to proceed. Faris was ultimately captured when he was ratted out by Khalid Mohammed, a terrorist in U.S. custody. The bridge is still there.
Next, the president might direct our attention to the garment district, where his administration broke up an al Qaeda plot to buy an import firm and use it as a cover to bring explosives into Manhattan and blow up several square blocks in the city's heart.
Or he could mention the Citicorp Center, or the Stock Exchange, or Newark Liberty Airport, or the helicopters that fly around the city for in each of these locations, his administration stayed the hand of terror.
It is only by puncturing the mirage of safety in which so many Americans find such comfort that Bush can explain properly why he needs to stay on as our president.
What if a bomb goes off in the midst of the convention? Wouldn't that cause a massive backfiring of any message of safety? If, G-d forbid, any incident does occur, it won't harm Bush but will work in his favor: Any reminder of the unsafe world in which we live redounds to the president's benefit even another terrorist attack that strikes home.
John Kerry, meanwhile, is on the defensive, unable to score points and set up for a big Bush gain provided the president can make an issue of what hasn't happened on his watch. He, after all, has kept us safe.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, most recently, "Rewriting History", a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History. (ClickHERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Dick Morris