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The Politics of Fear -- Again

Ruth Rosen

Although I have supported Barack Obama in the primaries, I would not be devastated if Hillary Clinton should turn out to be the Democratic nominee. What does upset me, however, is how Clinton is employing the politics of fear and how much she emphasizes national security in order to mobilize support for her campaign.

The politics of fear worked wonders for Bush and Cheney. I'm genuinely saddened that Hillary Clinton would reach out to tell us, "be afraid, very afraid." Her ads warn us about our children's 'safety at 3 am in the morning and do nothing more than employ the politics of fear. Her relentless assertion that only she will be a strong commander-in-chief makes my blood boil. In response, Barack Obama must rejoin her attacks and convince us that he, too, would be a fine commander who can deal with crises and war.

Excuse me, but is this what we want from Democrats? Fear mongering? Haven't we had enough from the Bush administration?

Of course we need a strong president who can protect the American people. Of course there are terrorists who are planning attacks on the United States. But no president can prevent a surprise attack. All a president can do is to ensure that our intelligence is excellent and that we are cooperating with nations around the world to prevent terrorist attacks.

So why do need a strong Command-in-Chief? To make war? Haven't we had enough wars in the last 7 years?

. What so disturbs me is that Hillary Clinton has created a debate that is irrelevant to our true domestic and economic security. Both Democratic candidates will be able to handle a crisis, but who among us, wants them to start and command yet more wars?

Let Senator McCain stress national security for now Let him defend the Bush military debacles. This is not the debate Democratic candidates should be having during the primaries. They should be arguing about how to end the war in Iraq and how to prevent future wars through multilateral diplomacy and negotiation. They should be talking about how the current wars are bankrupting our economy. They should be explaining how 12 billion dollars a month would support universal health care, as well as child care for working parents. They should be promising to remove the Social Security cap that allows a CEO to pay less social security taxes than his secretary. They should be promising to end the Bush tax cuts. They should be pledging to restore all our civil rights and liberties.

Instead, Hillary Clinton has set the terms of debate and is challenging Obama on the ground that she is more capable of making war and addressing national security. Well, our national security is not simply a military matter. Our national security, as any good Democrat should know, depends on the health and welfare of the nation's families and communities.

Ruth Rosen is a journalist and historian. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute in Berkeley and a professor emerita of history at the University of California, Davis. She is currently a visiting professor of public policy and history at U.C. Berkeley.

Copyright 2008 TPM Media LLC.

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