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Frank Rich: America's 'fearing fear itself' era is over

RAW STORY
Published: Saturday August 19, 2006

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America's "fearing fear itself" era is over, declares New York Times columnist Frank Rich in Sunday's edition, RAW STORY has found.

"The results are in for the White House's latest effort to exploit terrorism for political gain: The era of Americans' fearing fear itself is over," writes Rich.

"In each poll released since the foiling of the trans-Atlantic terror plot -- Gallup, Newsweek, CBS, Zogby, Pew -- George W. Bush's approval rating remains stuck in the 30s, just as it has been with little letup in the year since Katrina stripped the last remaining fig leaf of credibility from his presidency," Rich writes.

"While the new Middle East promised by Condi Rice remains a delusion, the death rattle of the domestic political order we've lived with since 9/11 can be found everywhere: in Americans' unhysterical reaction to the terror plot, in politicians' and pundits' hysterical overreaction to Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut, even in the ho-hum box-office reaction to Oliver Stone's 'World Trade Center,'" continues Rich.

Excerpts from Rich's column:

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It's not as if the White House didn't pull out all the stops to milk the terror plot to further its politics of fear. One self-congratulatory presidential photo op was held at the National Counterterrorism Center, a dead ringer for the set in "24." But Bush's Jack Bauer is no more persuasive than his Tom Cruise of "Top Gun." By crying wolf about terrorism way too often, usually when a distraction is needed from bad news in Iraq, he and his administration have long since become comedy fodder, and not just on "The Daily Show." June's scenario was particularly choice: As Baghdad imploded, Alberto Gonzales breathlessly unmasked a Miami terror cell plotting a "full ground war" and the destruction of the Sears Tower, even though the alleged cell had no concrete plans, no contacts with terrorist networks and no equipment, including boots.

What makes the foiled London-Pakistan plot seem more of a serious threat -- though not so serious it disrupted Tony Blair's vacation -- is that the British vouched for it, not Attorney General Gonzales and his Keystone Kops. This didn't stop Michael Chertoff from grabbing credit in his promotional sprint through last Sunday's talk shows. "It was as if we had an opportunity to stop 9/11 before it actually was carried out," he said, insinuating himself into that royal we. But no matter how persistent his invocation of 9/11, our secretary of homeland security is too discredited to impress a public that has been plenty disillusioned since Karl Rove first exhibited the flag-draped remains of a World Trade Center victim in a 2004 campaign commercial. We look at Chertoff and still see the man who couldn't figure out what was happening in New Orleans when the catastrophe was being broadcast in real time on television.

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TIMES SELECT SUBSCRIBERS CAN READ RICH'S COLUMN AT THIS LINK