When it comes to scaring the American people, the Bush administration is in a league of its own -- the fear-mongering equivalent of the 1927 New York Yankees, the Steel Curtain Pittsburgh Steelers, or the Showtime era Lakers of Magic, Kareem, and James Worthy. Everywhere you turn, there is another Alarmist All-Star.
Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rummy, Rove. Over the last five years, this Murderers' Row of home run-for-your-life hitters has already guaranteed itself a place in the Fear-Mongering Hall of Shame with Ruthian blasts of pulse-quickening, anxiety-inducing Red Alert rhetoric. Call them the Sultans of Cold Sweat.
Condi made herself a sure-fire first ballot inductee back in '03 with her ominous pre-war warning about Saddam: "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Cheney ensured his enshrinement during the 2004 vice-presidential debate: "The biggest threat we face today is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans."
And who'll ever forget Bush's classic 2003 State of the Union performance where he hit for the panic cycle, enumerating all the ways Saddam could reign death and destruction on us, including: "biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people"; "more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure"; "as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands."
But despite these legendary fear-inducing feats, Team Terror is not content to rest on its laurels. Indeed, the 2006 season is proving that the Bush Hall of Shamers are in top form.
This month has already given us some fear-mongering for the ages. There was Bush's 9/11 chat with Matt Lauer -- a shoo-in Hall of Shame performance in which the president offered an up-close-and-extremely-personal response to Lauer's questions about torture: "Matt, I'm just telling you, what this government has done is to take steps necessary to protect you and your family... We're at war. This is people that want to come and kill your families... This isn't make-believe." Gulp.
As if that weren't portentous enough, the president followed up with this leap into the dread end zone at his press conference on Friday: "It's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way. I wish I could tell the American people, don't worry about it, they're not coming again. But they are coming again." No word as to why we are always being reminded of the terrorists' imminent arrival just before elections.
Not to be outdone, the always cheerful Cheney cleared the bases on Meet the Press, trotting out one of his patented "what if" scenarios of mass murder: "The real threat is the possibility of a cell of al Qaeda in the midst of one of our own cities with a nuclear weapon, or a biological agent. In that case, you'd be dealing--for example, if on 9/11 they'd had a nuke instead of an airplane, you'd have been looking at a casualty toll that would rival all the deaths in all the wars fought by Americans in 230 years." And if Denny Hastert had rocket-powered wheels instead of legs, he'd be the fastest man alive.
As Election Day races ever-closer, you can be sure the GOP fear-mongers will be swinging for the fences -- in speeches, in press releases, in campaign ads, and in direct mail come-ons.
Things are always less scary when the lights are on -- so we'll be conducting an ongoing FearWatch, keeping our eyes peeled for the lowest, most base attempts to scare voters into voting their fears. And we'll, of course, pass these on to you. And we'd like you to do the same, using the comments section of this post to tell us about the worst examples of fear-mongering you come across.
Who do you think belongs in the Fear-Mongering Hall of Shame -- and why?