We know bin Laden would like to influence the election, because he’s done it before. On October 29, 2004 – four days before America went to the polls – Al-Jazeera broadcast excerpts of a video of bin Laden in which he attacked and openly mocked the Bush administration, and vowed to strike again.
Bin Laden did not overtly support John Kerry, at one point saying, “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands and each state which does not harm our security will remain safe.” But most of his comments were directed at the sitting president, such as, “It never occurred to us that the Commander-in-Chief of the country would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone because he thought listening to a child discussing her goats was more important.”
The predominant reaction, then, was to assume that bin Laden was rooting for a Kerry victory. Not surprisingly, following the release of his video, the needle moved a point or two – towards Bush. Voters certainly had every reason to give bin Laden the ink-stained finger, and bin Laden’s re-appearance on their TV screens was a not-so-subtle reminder of Bush’s most reassuring trait as president: his uncompromising stance towards terrorism (notwithstanding his ineptitude at implementing a strategy to combat it).
Bush won the popular vote by 2.5%, and won Ohio – whose electoral votes would have given Kerry the presidency – by only 2.1%. Correlation is not causation, but it is at least arguable that the release of the bin Laden video altered the outcome of the election. Presented with a video in which the embodiment of evil and our sworn enemy openly mocked our leader, Americans did what we did after 9/11: we closed ranks around that leader, and voted him to a second term.
Which is exactly what bin Laden wanted.
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