Last week, as expected, the GOP, unable to run on its disastrous record, pulled out its 2004 playbook and opened it to "Scare Tactics," offering up fear-mongering hatchet men Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and John Bolton to deliver the message that we should all be afraid -- very, very afraid -- of what an Obama presidency could lead to. Little things like the obliteration of a U.S. city (Gingrich) and more terrorist attacks (Bolton).
This fright-fest came in the wake of McCain telling us that al Qaeda will increase its violent attacks to try to defeat him, and that Hamas wants Obama to win.
In case we didn't get the message, up popped McCain's chief campaign advisor Charlie Black with his considered opinion that another terrorist attack on U.S. soil "certainly would be a big advantage" for McCain.
McCain quickly disavowed the comment and claimed, "I cannot imagine why he would say it." Really, Senator, you cannot imagine why your top advisor would follow in the footsteps of Karl Rove, who made scaring the bejesus out of the American people the centerpiece of GOP strategy for the last six years?
Let me break it down for you: fear is a frighteningly effective sales pitch -- one that has worked like a charm for Republicans since the days of the Cold War Red Scares, and especially since 9/11.
It proved less effective in 2006 -- not that the Republicans didn't give it everything they had, including a right-before-Election-Day TV ad featuring Osama bin Laden saying 9/11 was "nothing compared to what you will see next," and Dick Cheney repeatedly mentioning the possibility of "mass death in the United States."
As we've seen, the McCain campaign has little else to fall back on. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll showed that people feel Obama would do a better job on health care, energy policy, economy, taxes, and moral values (the candidates were tied on Iraq). The issue on which McCain was viewed most favorably was terrorism. So as we head into the dog days of summer leading to the conventions, we can expect more efforts to appeal to our collective lizard brain.
But things are always less scary when the lights are on -- so throughout the campaign HuffPost will be conducting a FearWatch, keeping our eyes peeled for the lowest, most base attempts to scare voters into voting their fears, and collecting them on a FearWatch08 page.
And we'd like your help. So be on the lookout for examples of fear-mongering in speeches, in press releases, in local TV spots, and in direct mail come-ons -- and send any you come across to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add them to our collection.
And use the comments section below to let me know whether you think the fear card will work in 2008. Will McCain and the GOP be able to appeal to voters' fears by raising the specter of pre-election terror attacks, madrassa schools, foreign sounding middle names, missing lapel pins, fulminating preachers, or terrorists celebrating over the election of a specific candidate?
Or will Democrats be able to make the case that the war in Iraq -- a war McCain is passionately, almost perversely, committed to continuing -- has made us less safe by taking our eye off the real terrorist threats, depleting our military, and draining resources from our infrastructure and homeland security?