Neither I nor William Safire knows what was on Osama bin Laden's mind when he presented his videotaped message a few days ago, but Safire and I are making very different guesses. In today's column, he claims that Osama was trying to sway us to vote for Kerry, because (according to Safire), "Stay-the-Course" W. is a greater threat to him. Wow! That seems like a really twisted interpretation. Others have argued that Osama would prefer Bush to win, because his aggressive blunders are recruiting thousands more to Osama's banner.

Here's what I think: Osama doesn't care which candidate wins the U.S. presidential election, because he wins either way. Both Kerry and Bush are committed to continuing the war in Iraq, and both have vociferously proclaimed their support for Israel's government no matter how aggressive. These twin policies continue to isolate the U.S. government from its potential allies and make a peaceful transformation of Mideastern societies and economies almost impossible. Thus they are great for al-Qaeda, and fuel Osama & company's Holy War. I think the timing of Osama's message was not to influence the election particularly, but simply his awareness that he would get maximum attention at a time when the two parties were trying to talk about other things (health care, threats to social security and the environment, jobs, etc.). "Hey, guys, I'm still here! And you're going to have to deal with me, like it or not."

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