Will fear help the GOP to beat Obama?


A prominent Rhode Island Democrat with whom I spoke yesterday expects Barack Obama to win the November election in a blowout.

Dan Kennedy, however, writing in the Guardian, is not so sure.

Be afraid. It's not just a warning - it's a campaign slogan. For Republicans, fear is a cudgel with which they've bludgeoned their way to victory since the Reagan era, and it's acquired an extra emotional wallop since 9/11. Will it work again?

Even though Barack Obama has a lead of as much as 15 points in the national polls, don't be too sure that it won't. After all, Michael Dukakis led the first George Bush by 17 points in the summer of 1988. That fall, Dukakis collapsed under a vicious assault on his patriotism, his toughness, even his mental stability.

Come September, we can expect the fear-mongering will be at a fever pitch. Recent comments by Charlie Black, the adviser to John McCain who's been admonished for claiming his man would be helped by a terrorist attack on American soil, will barely warrant an asterisk once the White House machine gets cranked up on McCain's behalf.

Consider, for instance, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, charged with being the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, is scheduled to go on trial along with four co-defendants this September. Mohammed, who's being held at Guantánamo Bay, has already declared his lust for martyrdom, and he can be counted on to entertain us with blood-curdling anti-American rants throughout the fall campaign.

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