Fear, Loathing and More Fear

With vitriolic sound bites flying thick and fast on the campaign trail, bloggers are also going at each other with guns blazing.

Captain Ed feels that “[h]aving the Kerry/Edwards campaign accuse anyone of using the politics of fear should result in jaws dropping across the United States.” Apparently, the Captain’s jaw is waggling somewhere down around his ankles, as he ticks off the “canards” used by Edwards to “frighten the voters,” such as the prospect of a military draft, a “secret January plan to steal Social Security checks from old ladies,” and the “urban legend” of vote suppression among African-Americans in 2000.

Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, focuses in on what he sees as scare tactics from the other side of the aisle. Training his fire on New York Times columnist William Safire, Sullivan asks incredulously “how is it possible to call the Kerry campaign the principal fear-mongers in this election?” He cites Cheney’s recent references to the possibility of “biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind” threatening “hundreds of thousands of Americans.” Sullivan offers a concise summation: “Isn’t the implication obvious? Vote for Kerry and get nuked.”

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor offers his own apoplectic summary of Safire and Cheney:

William Safire: Kerry’s a SCAREMONGERER! Social Security! Draft! He probably locked up Judith Miller! (What?)

Dick Cheney: Your children will burn in a nuclear holocaust because John Kerry is not tough enough to stand up to terrorists. (And he locked up Judith Miller!) (WHAAAAAT?)

Splashing about in his own puddle full of fearful conjecture, Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy decides to offers some “amateurish speculation” about what kind of terrorist attacks might be planned. He argues that an attempt to “destabilize the U.S. political system” through attacks on voting locations was most probable, and ominously observes that “[f]ears of attacks at polling places in the U.S. might discourage people from voting; low and uneven turnout could foster a sense that whoever is declared the winner was ‘al Qaeda’s candidate’ rather than the legitimate winner.” Kerr wraps it all up with a cheerful note that “this is just uninformed speculation.”

Speaking of uniformed speculation, Jonah Goldberg fires off a round at Kerry on for his suggestions Bush would reinstitute the military draft during a second Bush term. Goldberg skips merrily into the land of the shrill with a sarcastic litany of “scary scenarios” that are possible so long as “you aren’t bound by evidence and the president’s denials don’t count”: “The president will require that all taco meat be replaced with blue cheese. A 500 foot nude statue of Helen Thomas will replace the Washington Monument — that towering symbol of our phallocracy. Puppies will burn, kittens will fly, diapers will chafe …”

Blue cheese in tacos? We live in fear.

Susanna Dilliplane

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Susanna Dilliplane is a contributor to CJR.