Terror Alerts – Substance or Politics?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 10, 2004

By: Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.

Over the past week there has been a lot of controversy about whether President Bush is using the timing of terror alerts to bolster his re-election campaign.

Terrorism is a very serious issue and I do not believe that the terror alerts are based solely on politics. However, I do have some concerns that the timing of this announcement seems to be based on an election strategy.

Let’s look at the facts:

* Bush strategist Karl Rove told members of the Republican National Committee during a January 2002 speech that Republicans “can go to the country” on national security issues and invited his party to politicize the war in an election year. And according to The Associated Press, a White House strategy for the 2002 elections – formulated by top presidential advisors – advised Republican candidates to campaign with messages highlighting the war on terrorism.

* The Al Qaeda operative whose capture led to the release of information was captured on July 13, twenty days before President Bush’s press conference. The bulk of the information received was over three years old, some was eight months old. Even if the computer discs were found a few days after the capture of the terrorist, that means that the administration either chose the timing of the release, presumably for political reasons, or they lacked the resources to process the information in a timely manner.

* The day after Ridge was accused of considering politics for the timing of the announcement, he suddenly claimed that it took them a long time to process and translate the information.

* The administration has denied that the Department of Homeland Security gets involved in politics. In fact, last year the Department of Homeland Security was reportedly used for political purposes when it attempted to track down the whereabouts of Texas lawmakers who left the state to foil a Republican attempt to gerrymander Texas congressional districts.

* And, the Department of Homeland Security played the political card again at the press conference on August 1. Ridge spent time informing Americans that the President was a great leader in the fight against terror. Ridge said, “We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President’s leadership in the war against terror.”

* This is not the first or second time this administration has misled the public. For example, Weapons of Mass Destruction still have not been found in Iraq – even though President Bush convinced the American public and Congress that this was one of the primary reasons to support sending approximately 135,000 troops to Iraq.

* I am not the only person to believe that the timing of this announcement was somewhat based on politics. News organizations like the Associated Press, The Washington Post and The New York Times interviewed national security experts and political strategists, including a “top GOP operative” and “some senior Republicans” who have also questioned the timing of this announcement.

Terror is one of the most serious short term problems America faces and along with the soaring deficits and the continuing degradation of our environment, it is one of our most serious long term problems.

All of us want the President to succeed in fighting this incredible threat.

I am one American who would like to see more substance and less politics in this fight, so I can look forward to a future filled with hope, not fear.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates. Email Howard Dean at howarddean@democracyforamerica.com Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively by Cagle, Cartoons, Inc. www.caglecartoons.com, contact Cari Dawson Bartley 800 696 7561 cari@cagle.com for publishing or posting.