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Lamonterrorism

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With the Lamont-Lieberman primary in the offing and the expected outcome all but sealed well before, the Washington establishment marshalled its forces against the insurgent Lamont, supported as he was by rebel forces bent on bringing down the incumbent Lieberman. In a mere five months, Lamont rose in the polls from a 55 point deficit to a ten point lead well before the primary. During this time, of course, Lieberman continued his towel-boy routine for the Bush administration, something that clearly had not been taken well by Democrat voters.

Not wholly unaware of polls, this sign indicated to Washington elite that a strong democratic insurgency would have to be put down and put down hard. In the primary run-up, talking heads espoused the wisdom that a defeat for Lieberman would necessarily indicate that the Democratic party was being overrun by "leftists" who were "soft on terror." Such a result, it would be claimed, painted the Democrats and Democrat voters as a sorry band of defeatists who could not and should not be trusted with the security of the country, a hollow theme straight out of the pages of Karl Rove's play book. David Brooks offered that charge in the pages of the New York Times, but Brooks' pallid argument show-cased the set piece that would be on offer after the primary itself, barrels loaded in anticipation of the near inevitable result.

After the Lamont victory, Time Magazine that would drop the first depth charge, featuring a story informing readers that the Lamont win was actually a win for Republicans:
From Washington State to Missouri to Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates found themselves on the defensive Wednesday as the Republican Party worked ferociously at every level to try to use the primary defeat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to portray the opposition as the party of weakness and isolation on national security and liberal leanings on domestic policy. Doleful Democrats bemoaned the irony: At a time when Republicans should be back on their heels because of chaos abroad and President Bush's unpopularity, the Democrats' rejection of a sensible, moralistic centrist has handed the GOP a weapon that could have vast ramifications for both the midterm elections of '06 and the big dance of '08.
That was just the first paragraph. Indeed, the entire article pays homage to Republicans, relating their strategy for #file_2#dealing with the clear rejection of Lieberman and his support for Bush's war, a war that 60% of Americans now oppose. The Time article further embraced and relayed GOP name-calling and mockery, as though Democrats had no response to what Republicans and Time Magazine clearly believe was a victory for the GOP. And this would hardly be the last word of this perceived wisdom.

The strafing of democracy would continue with Slate editor Jacob Weisberg and his grim picture of ultimate "disaster" for the Democrats, Dead with Ned. Congratulations were hardly the order of the day:
This is a signal event that will have a huge and lasting negative impact on the Democratic Party.
With typical Washington establishment politicking, rather than noting the obvious reasons for Lieberman's defeat - Americans are sick of the worse than useless war in Iraq - Weisberg views the outcome, not as a referendum on the war and those who still embrace its failed excesses, but as something that will prevent Democrats from "capitalizing on the massive failures of the Bush administration." But Weisberg appears to be utterly clueless here; this is exactly what Lamont did. Weisberg does admit, reluctantly, that "Lieberman's opponents are not entirely wrong about the war," and even further admits that the war was "terrible mistake," which is awfully generous considering Weisberg's weak-minded frame of reference.

This is standard Washington trope, that the war was a "mistake," rather than that which it obviously was: a pre-arranged and illegal act of international aggression foisted upon Americans and the world and justified with a pack of poorly constructed lies. This act of war upon a nation uninvolved with 9/11 was trumpeted by the corporate media - with little forbearance by Slate's own newly minted, resident Islamophobe, Christopher Hitchens - and its subsequent refusal to recognize or acknowledge the myriad evidence that demonstrated exactly these lies, has created within them a deeply pathological psychology of previous investment. Of course, much of America no longer buys the "mistake" excuse anymore, but that doesn't sit well in Washington. Within the beltway, calling Iraq anything but a mistake is viewed as entirely unseemly. Because of this, the defeat of Leiberman is viewed by Washington as a defeat of not only the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq - something the Washington press and politicos have always supported - but also of a threat to the established order. Threatened incumbencies are rarely heard of in the two-party establishment, and the Lamont win was recognised for exactly what it was: democracy in action. War and national security are the issues that the GOP revolves around at election time and with the help of the media, they are usually the only issues to be covered. But suddenly those issues were under attack by voters disenchanted with an apparently pointless and unending war. This would not do.

The Associated Press advanced the Lieberman hagiography, further pressing the obvious GOP play that Democratic voters had become terrorist quislings and that because of this, Democrats as a party were doomed. But the theme began to sour as even Joe Scarborough chimed in that the logic of the argument was entirely wanting, encouraging the Democrats to continue to the leftward swing. (Now, this could be a feint on the part of the Republican Scarborough, a ploy in reverse psychology. Or it could be that Scarborough is genuinely appalled by the direction the GOP have taken recently. Though given Scarborough's stance in the Schiavo charade, such a premise is entirely doubtful.) Not for want of trying, Republicans and the media that serve them probably didn't really believe their own arguments. The Iraq war is and has been exacting in its unpopularity, the incompetence charges against the doddering Rumsfeld having been piled to enormous height along with the daily heaping of bodies.


And then the British foiled a terrorist plot. Again. Suddenly, all was right with the world as the arrest of a score of Muslims plotting to blow-up airliners with liquid chemicals rapidly lent Republicans the media soap box of national insecurity. Clearly, you must vote for us, they would declaim. Terrorists are all around and those weak-kneed Democrats have no idea how to handle this dangerous situation. The timing was as impeccable as it was orchestrated. Indeed, after days of media frenzy, replete as it was with a panoply of "terror in the skies" scenarios and more information about mixing chemical bombs than anyone should rightly want to know, it was learned that British authorities had been resistant to White House timing of the arrests, preferring to wait. There was, in fact, no imminent threat; the plotters had been under surveillance for a year, none had purchased airline tickets while others didn't even have passports.

Of course, White House manipulation of terror arrests is old news and this current episode echoes the even more egregious behaviour of August, 2004. During the Democratic National Convention, the White House chose to announce a heightened terrorist threat; a plot against the NYSE and Citigroup had been discovered. On August 2, just days after Kerry's nomination, when Kerry's smiling mug was plastering news coverage, the name of an Al Qaeda mole, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, co-operating with British and Pakistani officials, was publicly exposed and further surveillance necessarily aborted; arrests had to suddenly occur before the plotters had scattered. At least five suspects escaped. This exposure came as a direct result of an off the record press briefing that followed the August 1 terror plot announcement by Tom Ridge, two days after Democratic Convention in Boston.

British and Pakistani officials were furious at the exposure of Noor:
A captured Al Qaeda computer whiz was E-mailing his comrades as part of a sting operation to nab other top terrorists when U.S. officials blew his cover, sources said yesterday.

Within hours of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan's name being publicized Monday, British police launched lightning raids that netted a dozen suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, including one who was nabbed after a high-speed car chase....

Now British and Pakistani intelligence officials are furious with the Americans for unmasking their super spy - apparently to justify the orange alert - and for naming the other captured terrorist suspects.
Even the Justice Department was aggravated by the political opportunism, as John Loftus said,
By exposing the only deep mole we've ever had within al-Qaeda, it ruined the chance to capture dozens if not hundreds more.
Of course, this story followed the familiar pattern that all such media manipulations have. The big story was the terror plot announcement, which was only followed by a smaller media footprint that the announcement had, in fact, thwarted an ongoing investigation and exposed a co-operating mole inside Al Qaeda, derailing British and Pakistani counter-terrorism intelligence efforts. Two steps of terror publicity for the Bush administration and only a halting half-step, or less, back.

The investigations of the foiled plot continue while the suspects remain in jail, though two have already been released. But now that the initial terror plot panic has been dialed back - the Lamont primary win now a distant memory - the media leapt back to warm articles that regarded Lieberman as a "retooled independent," a term that sounds both bold and assertive. Though one would have been loathe to find evidence of independence in Lieberman when he was a Democrat, now that he has been expunged by voters, he has suddenly transmogrified into a rough and ready fire-brand. Americans love independent, fire-brand politicians and despite the fact that most of the Democratic leadership is now backing Lamont, it is Lieberman who continues to garner media praise.

Meanwhile, so-called "liberal" media opinionators furthered the assault on the Democratic Party. E.J. Dionne shellacked the Democrats for having a "self-image problem." While this might be entirely true, the timing appears to be, at best, inappropriate. At least, if one's intent is to actually help the Democrats rather than to amplify and reinforce the very same message the Republicans have been delivering about the Democrats for the last five years. It seems doubtful that Dionne is being purposeful in this; he just seems clueless. But inadvertence can be just as damaging as a directed attack. Indeed, Lamont's victory has sparked more negative coverage of the Democrats and an equally large dollop of panting praise for GOP prospects than one would have thought possible. But it is possible, and we have been witnessing it on a daily basis since the primary.

But wait, there's more terror on the way. Old terror, but terror nonetheless. And rather than some fuzzy abstraction like a "plot," it would be terror that had actually happened.

Apropos of nothing save one other 9/11 media splash event - Oliver Stone's teary-eyed homily, World Trade Center, #file_1#that recalls the horror inflicted upon "ordinary people" that day - the Bush administration, under the guise of anonymous Bloombergian New York city officials, have just released records of some 1600 telephone calls from the morning of 9/11; victims calling and firefighters responding to emergency services from within the World Trade Centre on that harrowing morning. Let us all relive the pain. Republicans have been rather fretfully bemoaning that Americans were "forgetting" about 9/11, their belief that Iraq was a waste of time evidencing a lamentable memory loss. With the run-up to the election now being measured in weeks, it was clearly time to amp up the memories and, hopefully, a little vengeance would seep out, at least enough to last through election day.

The days subsequent to the Connecticut primary have seen a heady mix of terrorist plotting, Democrat bashing and Republican chop-licking, especially after the exposure of the much-hyped yet far less than imminent airline plot. Indeed, the primary now seems long forgotten, a fading, distant and possibly unpleasant memory. Why, didn't all the stories in the press talk about how crazy the Democrats had become? Lamont who? Lieberman, now a fierce independent, would no more pander to the likes of Louis Farrakhan but instead would choose his pandering carefully: fear and terror would be his new election-prospect friends. And both Republicans and the media - Republimediacans - would now embrace Joe, though they had previously called him a "political prostitute" with the conscience of a "revolving door." The Washington establishment memory hole comes into play once again.

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An astronomer who has worked on a number of NASA projects, Ken lives in Baltimore, where he devotes his scientific training to observations and inferences about current affairs, politics and the media. He authors more...)
 
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