Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Monday, June 28, 2004


Can We Put this Meme to Rest?

In the most recent Economist (subscription), Lexington tosses off the blithe statement that “(God forbid) an attack by al-Qaeda would almost certainly help Mr Bush.”

I don’t think so.

There’s just no real basis for believing it – and not simply because the attacks in Spain did nothing to help then-prime minister Aznar. The most obvious reason is that any further terrorist attacks, especially on American soil, are at least as likely to underscore the failures of Bush policy as they are to induce the electorate – which of late has been rather gratifyingly shedding itself of its ill-considered faith in the man – to “rally around the president.”

In other words, whatever the impact – it’s highly unpredictable. Simply put, there is no factual basis to assume that a terrorist attack on US soil would “almost certainly” help Bush. It might not.

There is, however, ample reason to assume that, should such an event occur, Bush will – more than likely transparently – try to use it for political advantage, as he has done with 9/11 for nearly three years now. This could backfire. Or he just might get away with it, partly because the press, by repeating statements such as the Economist’s, will have made it too easy for him: he’d just be encouraging people to follow the response that the press has already conditioned them to take.

I could be wrong – but let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

In the meantime, cancel the meme -- and cancel the unwitting pre-conditioning. Neither are helpful.


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