Holbrooke wins Round 1 in bin Laden spin battle

Published October 29, 2004 10:10PM (EDT)

Round 1 in the bin Laden spin game goes to the Kerry camp. Immediately after CNN aired the new video, showing the remarkably composed, healthy-looking, and elegantly robed al-Qaida leader sticking it one more time in Bush's eye, Kerry foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke stuck it in the president's other eye. The video, Holbrooke told Wolf Blitzer, "raises the troubling question about why this grotesque mass murderer is still out there" thumbing his nose at America. As Blitzer tried to counter by pointing out that polls show most Americans think Bush will do a better job of protecting them against terrorism, Holbrooke quickly shot back, "If Bush is so much more effective, why is bin Laden still on the loose?"

"We should have closed the door on him in the Tora Bora mountains -- had we not subcontracted the job to Afghan warlords, we would've captured him. Now he's able to issue these pernicious threats."

For a response from the Bush camp, Blitzer turned to the AEI's Danielle Pletka, who seemed overwrought and unable to look directly at the camera. The Bush advisor took immediate exception to bin Laden's hurtful taunt that the president had spent a bit too long listening to the story of the pet goat on the morning of Sept. 11. "I'm glad to hear that Michael Moore is giving aid and comfort to the enemy," she snapped, her eyes darting everywhere but at the camera. Pletka, in keeping with the frenzied, final-days tone of the Bush campaign, then ripped into Holbrooke for trying to "exploit" the tape for political gain. "It's a lie we had bin Laden in our clutches and let him get away. And it's a lie that once we have him, the war on terror will be over." Whether this Osama-is-not-the-end-of-the-world line works with American voters is doubtful, however. Since the end of the world is precisely what bin Laden and the other berobed and bearded horsemen of the apolcalypse riding out of the Middle East keep threatening.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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