Cheney goes code red on Kerry

Published September 8, 2004 12:27AM (EDT)

It's long been clear that the Bush White House would exploit fear of terrorism in its run for reelection. But today the Bush administration's fear monger-in-chief Vice President Cheney resorted to an astonishing low in the effort to scare Americans into voting for his boss. A vote for John Kerry, he declared at a campaign stop in the key swing state of Iowa, is a vote for an imminent terrorist attack on America.

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told approximately 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in Des Moines, according to the Associated Press.

If Kerry were elected, Cheney added, the nation would be in danger of falling back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that terrorist attacks are criminal acts requiring a reactive approach. He went on to tout Bush's approach to rooting out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressuring countries that harbor terrorists.

Apparently, though, the hardline Bush stance doesn't apply to Russia. According to a separate AP report on Tuesday, the administration announced its position that "only a political settlement could end the crisis between Russia and the breakaway region of Chechnya." It was a direct rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently facing the most dire wave of terrorism there to date from Muslim separatists.

And let's not forget it was Cheney himself who mocked John Kerry for intending to fight a "more sensitive war on terror, as though al-Qaida will be impressed by our softer side." His message from the stage of the Republican Convention was that Kerry would foolishly negotiate with terrorists who know no reason. But apparently Cheney and the rest of the White House believe that the vicious thugs who murdered hundreds of schoolchildren in Russia late last week might still qualify for settlement talks.

If the Bush campaign's dissonant message on terrorism is ultimately meant to scare Americans into casting their ballots for the current commander-in-chief, at least voters can take some comfort in knowing that Team Bush isn't too concerned Chechen terrorists will be the ones to attack the U.S. on the day, God forbid, John Kerry is elected.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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