It’s Not About Bin Laden


WASHINGTON—Tuesday’s election is a referendum on the right wing’s blueprint for America. It has little to do with how the candidates handle themselves in public, or their leadership qualities in Iraq, or their approach to the war on terror.

As for the injection of Osama bin Laden, his October Surprise video was pretty much a repeat of what he has said all along. “Bin Laden is out to dramatically alter U.S. and western policies towards the Islamic world, not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms and liberties,” argues Anonymous, a former top CIA official who tracked bin Laden for years, in his book Imperial Hubris. “He is a practical warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon. Should U.S. policies not change, the war between America and the Islamists will go on for the foreseeable future.”

The media says the bin Laden tape had little impact on most voters, whose opinions are locked in concrete by now. The polls show John Kerry and George Bush deadlocked, with the vote in three big key states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida—possibly holding the key to the winner. Ohio is probably the most important of these. No president in over 100 years has won without carrying it. And key to Ohio are the voters in the huge wards of Cleveland.

Those voters will be choosing between a Republican ideology of states’ rights and conservative Christian rollbacks on civil liberties—from birth control to free speech—and a Democratic ideology that seeks to balance what remains of the New Deal with neoliberal free marketeering.

Whatever else he did, Kerry wouldn’t come close to dropping Social Security or abandon Medicare or have people go to church to obtain social benefits or let the Christian right run prisons. He wouldn’t commit large wads of cash to democratizing the Middle East. He would undoubtedly pick some moderate jurists for the Supreme Court. He would support reproductive choice and women’s rights. All in all, he doesn’t look like Bush, and there’s a good possibility he wouldn’t act like him, either.

Additional reporting: Laurie Anne Agnese, Nicole Duarte, David Botti