If the latest polls are to be trusted, the Democrats will take back the House and will fall just shy of retaking the Senate. If so, they have only the perseverance of the indefatigable insurgents to thank. Certainly an uncharacteristic outbreak of peace and normalcy among the Arab tribes of upper Mesopotamia would send Mr. Bush's popularity soaring, but as long as Sunnis and Shias regularly butcher one another and plant ample bombs on Babylon's byways it promises to be a prosperous fall for the opposition. True, the Democrats will likely benefit from the automatic boost the minority gets in midterm elections, but with the (admittedly major) exception of the Iraq War, the majority of Americans are squarely behind the GOP on all fronts, whether it be immigration policy, the economy, or homeland security.
The Democrats' weakness is that the so-called "security moms" do not trust the likes of Nancy Pelosi and John "cut and run" Murtha on security matters. Indeed, they would prefer to entrust a New Orleans levee commissioner to the task. Time and again Democrats object on principle to every proposed law and security measure put forth by the Bush administration, from rudely questioning bloodthirsty jihadists to eavesdropping on their phone conversations. In the meantime the opposition attempts to color the GOP as desperate and craven fearmongers, eager to keep the masses on edge with wolf cries and wild hysterics over mad Muslim bombers. "With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and a midterm election coming up, the Bush gang is still trafficking in fear, which is about all they have left," alleges Philip Gailey of the St. Petersburg Times.
If that's the Republican gambit it has been about as successful as the electric car. Personally I see no sign of an alleged GOP fear campaign. Here in Middle America the electorate goes calmly about its daily business without the slightest thought given to Osama & Co. Americans, by and large, have complete confidence that the security apparatus -- despite liberal interference -- is capable of tracking down mass murderers before their villainies can be unleashed on the unsuspecting public. They have no such confidence in the Democratic leadership.
And yet fear exists in a very real sense around the globe. The masses living on the frontlines in Kashmir and Bali and Chechnya are as familiar with terrorism as Gulf state residents are with hurricanes. Imagine the dread of the Bali bartender as he bicycles to his job at the Sari Club in the Kuta nightclub district, the repeated scene of unspeakable carnage. Or the apprehension of the Indian busdriver as he picks up a load of Muslim passengers. Unadventurous Americans are rightly reluctant to travel to the Middle East and Asia. And I wouldn't advise a holiday in Beirut or Cairo for the time being. But travel to the U.S. is up, and if Americans are hesitant to fly to Londonistan, there is no similar hesitancy on the part of the Brits to come hither.
If Americans feel relatively secure it is because Mr. Bush -- regardless what you think of his antics in office -- has made the country inhospitable to pious cutthroats. He has kicked out the hooligans and is keeping close tabs on the Muslim malcontents, despite the best efforts of the ACLU to intercede on their behalf.
But there is more to be done. The New York Times reports that in 2005, more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent United States residents -- nearly 96,000 -- than in any year in the previous two decades. Doubtless many are justifiably fleeing religious barbarism at home. Yet if Europe is any indicator, the second and third generations of these immigrants -- if not assimilated into middle-class culture -- may well become radicalized. This would pose an interesting existential dilemma for the Democrats: How does one cut and run from Dearborn, Michigan?
It is often said that the terrorists' modus operandi is to spread fear. Nonsense. Spreading fear is not their game at all. It is murder, pure and simple. The Muslim terrorist has as much interest in scaring the average Iowan as he has in sailing to the moon. But he will happily slit his throat for him from ear to ear. Whatever its fiascos in Iraq, the Bush Administration since 9-11 has been far more successful than Europe, Asia, and Russia in preventing the murder of its citizens by terrorists. It is this success story that the Democrats are referring to when they speak of a "fear campaign." And the more the Administration speaks up, the more fearful (of losing in November) Democrats will become.
Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor and runs the Existential Journalist.
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