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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Al Qaeda and the Presidential Election

You probably heard the furor over the recent remark in an interview with Fortune by McCain’s chief strategist Charlie Black–the uber-lobbyist who began his political career as an operative for Jesse Helms–that a fresh terrorist attack on the country this year would boost his candidate’s electoral prospect. At The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg retorts that Black was just repeating the conventional wisdom, but then offers this twist on the subject:

Therefore, a terrorist outrage shortly before the election—or, more cost-effectively, a terrorist video attacking McCain and/or praising Obama—would be powerful evidence that Al Qaeda wants McCain to win, in hopes that he would continue such policies as bleeding American military strength into the Iraqi desert, facilitating the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, promoting Islamist extremism by vowing to occupy Iraq permanently, and confirming “blood for oil” suspicions by arranging no-bid petroleum contracts for American energy corporations. In 2004, remember, an Al Qaeda video of this type put Bush over the top.
Obviously, this is not something that Obama or his people can say. But commentators can say it, and I hereby do so.

Hertzberg goes on to suggest that the argument doesn’t cut both ways:

Could one also argue the converse—i.e., that the absence of a terrorist act or video in the closing weeks of the campaign would prove that Al Qaeda is rooting for Obama? Perhaps, but far less plausibly. In any case, it would be an awkward argument for anyone to make who also argues that the absence of such attacks proves that the “war on terror” has been a success.

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