GADFLY: It's That Time Again 

BIll Frist

Loath as I am to make predictions about almost anything, having missed every prediction I've made in the last year from my homies' (the Pittsburgh Steelers') victory in the Super Bowl to the price of a gallon of gas, I am also a big believer in that old saw about the past being prologue. So it is with some fear and trepidation that I make the following prediction: There will be a terrorist attack, or at least dire warnings about one, in this country, sometime within the next several months (and certainly before the November '06 mid-term elections) .

The circumstances are ripe either for another terrorist attack or for the removal of the cobwebs from the terrorist warning system. No, it's not because our  preparedness for an attack is non-existent, because security at our ports (both sea and air) has been shown to be about as tight as a sieve, because FEMA has been shown to be utterly incompetent, or even because our National Guard, which would have to respond in the event of a domestic terrorist attack, has been decimated by its repeated deployment to Iraq. It's because the political climate dictates a return to a tactic that's been successful for this administration in the past. 

With the president at an all-time low in popularity, and an all-time high in disapproval, the Republican party in a shambles (thanks, in part to the Dubai ports debacle), and the country starting to believe that Democrats are more worthy of confidence on the Republicans' go-to issue of national security, there is only one thing that will save the President, and his party: a terrorist attack, or at least sounding the alarm bells that one is imminent. 

It's no secret that the terrorist alert/warning system has been manipulated to benefit the popularity rating of the administration. In a well-documented study of the confluence of political conditions and the issuance of terrorist warnings, entitled "The Nexus of Politics and Terror," Keith Olberman, the articulate host of the MSNBC show "Countdown," revealed on the show, and in a posting on his blog that on at least 13 occasions, the issuance of terrorist "alerts," had coincided with events he called "political downturns" for the Bush administration. He summarizes the findings by saying:

But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, it underscores the need for questions to be asked in this country - questions about what is prudence, and what is fear-mongering; questions about which is the threat of death by terror, and which is the terror of threat.

Let's not forget the effect the Bin Laden tape that was revealed (again, no doubt fortuitously) just before the 2004 presidential election had on the outcome of that election. Even President Bush has acknowledged that probability.

It continues to amaze me that, despite the overwhelming evidence of this administration's incompetence in the "war on terror," the country has, at least until recently, continued to believe that Bush is their man when it comes to protecting them from a terrorist attack. I commented about this in an earlier piece entitled "Who You Gonna Call," in which I said:

But how stupid do you have to be to believe that a man who's demonstrably incapable of prosecuting a successful campaign to bring down ("dead or alive") our avowed "Public Enemy Number One," [Bin Laden] is the man for the job, or worse, that even if we're attacked again, he still deserves to be considered our protector. How many more times do we really need to be fooled?

And so, with the prospect that the Republicans will be brought down in the upcoming elections by their, and their leader's, tanking popularity ratings, the imminence of additional disclosures of ethical scandals in the Congressional (read: Republican) bribery investigations (read: Abramoff), the likelihood that Patrick Fitzgerald will bring his other shoe down, hard, on Karl Rove in the continuing "Plamegate" investigation, and the general implosion by spontaneous political combustion of the Republican party as we know it, the harbingers are clear. The only thing that may save Bush and his party is their time-tested go-to tactic: Be afraid, be very afraid.

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