Today it was revealed that the first Secretary of Homeland Security (the cabinet position created following the 9/11 attacks) feels that he was pressured to raise the terrorist alert level shortly before the 2004 elections to give the Republicans a boost at the polls. The Secretary, Tom Ridge, stated that while he and his department did not feel that a new bin Laden tape that surfaced days before the 2004 election warranted a threat level raise, he was pressured by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to raise the threat level.
Some folks' reactions have included "Oh, well, Ridge is just trying to sell books and is making these things up." Even if Ridge is making it up (which I don't think he is), the actions and words of the Republican Party during the 2006 midterm elections show that they would be more than capable and willing to do something similar to what Ridge charges. Let's not forget Bush's words in the run-up to the elections on October 30, 2006: "However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses." If Bush publicly insinuated that a vote for the Democrats would be a vote for the terrorists, what happened behind closed doors?
We saw the politics of fear in play during the Bush Administration with its use of the War on Terror. We saw the politics of fear in play during the 2008 presidential election, with neo-cons begging people to be afraid of Obama, the Khalidi/Ayers/Wright "scandals," and Hillary Clinton's top adviser suggesting that they highlight the fact that some people may think that Obama is not "fundamentally American because of his diverse background. We see the politics of fear now with the whole talk of "death panels." It all reminds me of an Al Gore quote from his book The Assault on Reason: "Leadership means inspiring us to manage through our fears. Demagoguery means exploiting our fears for political gain. There is a crucial difference." Peace.
Photo - Tom Ridge (Wikipedia)