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Tancredo's Scare Tactics

From LBJ's mushroom-clouded "Daisy" to Tancredo's images of terror attacks. (Democratic National Committee; Tancredo for President).

It is a terrifying image stalking the subconscious of many Americans in the post-9/11 world. And thanks to Colorado congressman, Republican presidential candidate and anti-immigration crusader Tom Tancredo, it is now appearing on television sets across Iowa, with promises to expand to other states soon: a man in a hooded sweatshirt walks into a shopping mall, sets a heavy backpack besides a bench, and walks away before the backpack explodes.

Accompanying the ominous shopping mall scene (which is interspersed with images from terrorist bombings in Europe) is an opener from Tancredo himself, saying that "I approve message because someone needs to say it," and then this voiceover, in an ominous-sounding baritone: "There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs. Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil, Jihadists who froth with hate here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia. The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill."

That is followed by the sound of a loud explosion, and then these closing words on the screen: "Tancredo -- before it's too late."

That Tancredo is running in asterisk territory in presidential polls and being all but ignored as a single-issue candidate does not diminish the undeniable initial shock of the ad. Just as his campaign hoped, the ad has generated a flutter of attention for his flagging campaign and the issue it was built around, with Tancredo's allies in the immigration battle hailing him for his candor and others scorning the ad as cheap and blatant fear mongering. (The campaigns of three of Tancredo's chief GOP rivals for the nomination -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain -- all declined to comment on the ad.)

Lingering in the air after the imagined bomb detonates is this question: is there a line to be crossed when it comes to campaign ads that prey on national security fears -- and if so, where does that line fall? Bowdoin College political scientist Michael Franz, who studies campaign ads, said there is a select but notorious lineage behind Tancredo's ad.

With its imagined explosion, the ad most obviously invokes the infamous "Daisy" ad run by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 to stoke fears that electing his opponent, Barry Goldwater, could lead to nuclear war. More recently, there was President Bush's "wolves" ad in 2004, which criticized John Kerry for voting against intelligence funding with an image of a pack of wolves approaching the viewer and the line, "Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm." This in turn recalled President Reagan's more opaque "Bear" ad in 1984, which showed a bear bear on the prowl with this voiceover: "There is a bear in the woods. For some people the bear is easy to see. Others don't see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame.
Others say it's vicious. And dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who is right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear."

Bush faced only limited criticism for the "wolves" ad, but Franz predicted that Tancredo would face a considerable backlash for the shopping mall ad, partly because his low standing in the polls will make the ad seem all the more opportunistic. "Fear mongering can turn people off to the candidate who sponsored the ad if it seems to go too far. And the lower down the ticket you go, the more likely these fear attacks can create backlash," Franz said. "A second tier candidate can face that backlash if voters don't know that much about him, and then associate this with him. It may turn people against him."

Then again, Tancredo -- who recently announced he will not run for reelection next year -- may not actually be seeking to win the hearts and minds of Iowa caucus-goers with the ad. Tancredo campaign spokesman Alan Moore said today that the campaign has been thrilled with the national attention that the ad has gotten, even as he conceded that it had met with "mixed reviews."

"It's been pretty unbelievable. We're getting a great response," Moore said. "People are talking about it and that's what we wanted to to, we wanted to start a dialogue ..... and say this is a real threat to national security. In the end, people are going to recognize [illegal immigration] as a threat to national security. I think we're going to accomplish what we set out to do."

As for the implications for Tancredo's campaign, Moore said, "The congressman puts it real well. He says that he's never run for an office to get the office. He is running to promote his beliefs and the best way to do that is through an election."

Finally, there is the matter whether the threat described in the ad is a realistic one. It is America's great good fortune that its enemies to date have for whatever reason not targeted shopping malls or other "soft" targets. And plenty of security experts note that if Al Qaeda or anyone else decided to go that route, it would not necessarily have to rely on illegal immigrants to get the job done -- 9/11 proved that the organization had sympathizers legally residing in the U.S. Travis Ridout, a political scientist at Washington State University, notes that recent terrorist incidents in England involved immigrants from Pakistan and elsewhere legally residing in the U.K. "In terms of its accuracy, [the ad] ignores other possibilities," Ridout said.

Moore, the campaign spokesman, dismissed that criticism. "I don't know how much we can control [attacks by legal residents]. What we can control is who the people are coming into the country legally and making sure people aren't getting in illegally," he said.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  November 13, 2007; 7:04 PM ET
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Tancredo: Just another con man attempting a tired old con.

Fascist fearmonger: Tom Tancredo

Posted by: JustAnotherIdiot | November 14, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

You wouldn't know it from the WaPo, but thousands of people from countries like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. have crossed illegally into the U.S. Perhaps the WaPo should stop supporting illegal immigration and start trying to help prevent scenarios like the one depicted in the ad.

The WaPo's editorial- and "news"-based support for illegal immigration in the face of the threat of terrorist infiltration is well-known. They might want to consider whether they'd have any readers should we have an attack such as that depicted in the ad.

As for the race-based hegemony comments earlier, L.A.'s mayor is a fine example of what we want to avoid: (Note that he says, "we're here and we aren't leaving" refering to Hispanics regardless of whether they're here legally or not. That type of stuff is more appropriate for the Balkans than the U.S.)

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | November 14, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Patriot1, I think you ought to throw your hat in the Presidential ring and make a play for the five or six voters who are considering voting for Tancredo.

Posted by: AndiMedi | November 14, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

CNN, ABC News, NY Times & Newsweek all agree by 2010, a large proportion of the US electorate will be non-white. It behooves public officials who seek higher office to be responsive & sensitive to a multi-cultural & multi-ethnic America. I don't see anything but a permanent minority status for the GOP in large electoral states dominated by Hispanic, Asian, Muslim & African-American voting blocs. We have the power to elect more Antonio Villaraigosas (mayor of LA), US Rep (D) Keith Ellisons, (first Congressman of Muslim faith from Minnesotta.

Posted by: yog2541 | November 14, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"Tancredo's Reality Commercial - not a scare tactic - is already happening. Illegal Aliens kill more than 10,000 Americans a year and injure, rape or trob, five times as many. "

Dude, put down the crack pipe...for your own good and ours.

Posted by: thegribbler1 | November 14, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

If the Dems win in 08, it will be because of massive voter fraud from Mexican and Central American illegal aliens who stole IDs to vote.

But, with a little help of honest law abiding, anti-anarchy Americans, a thrid Independent populist party candidate may emerge to unite American centrists, and overthrow the family dynasties that have held this nation in partisan divide for 2 decades.

Americans can rise up in 08 and take back their country away from ILLEGAL THIEVES and their political and economic allies.

Posted by: Patriot1 | November 14, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

US Rep Tom Tancredo desperate scare tactics would not work, considering a huge number of non -US citizens are currently deployed in Iraq & Afghanistan, serving in both active & reserve status in the US Army & USMC.
As a first generation Asian-American immigrant, I am repulsed by the nativist, xenophobic, immigrant bashing paranoia currently involving the GOP. It is hign time all immigrant communities & their US born children participate in the registration of new voters & maximize the turn out for Democrats nationwide.
Lets keep a close eye on Tancredo congressional seat, we may have to work harder to swing his district to the Democratic column on Nov 2008.
Go Democrats '08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: yog2541 | November 14, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Tancredo's Reality Commercial - not a scare tactic - is already happening. Illegal Aliens kill more than 10,000 Americans a year and injure, rape or trob, five times as many.

Meanwhile, of the the few OTM's captured as they are escorted across the border, many of them have been detained in GitMo but most have snuck across and are now hiding within our cities and towns - and some have driver's licenses thanks to idiots like Eliot Spitzer.

The Congress and Pres candidates are divided to the point where the will anf realistic demands of the majority of American citizens do not count (too many politicians are owned by Drug Monies, Ethnocentric special interests and the US Chamber of Commerce slave trade).

But, there are some Blue Dog Dems and honest Reps in the House who may finally cast light on the hypocracy of the twits in the Senate and White House. You can read about those Patriots at (it's amazing that the Latino Caucus, as Americans, would be upset by the demand for English in the workforce - traitors):

Posted by: Patriot1 | November 14, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

In reality it is a matter of time. Congress spends 12 billion dollars a month on the Iraq war but won't commit to 3 billion to secure our nations borders. Terrorist bombers are a reality in the Middle East and in Europe. To assume that it will never happen in the United States is a fools bet.

Posted by: jsdepot | November 13, 2007 11:05 PM | Report abuse

All the Terrorists of 911 had overstayed their visas. If an Employer files for a Temporary Work Visa, They should be held Liable for ensuring the verified departure of said Immigrant-Any offspring included!

If when the Visa expires, the Immigrant is not able to be found, the Employer should be held accountable if they did not notify the ICE IMMEDIATELY when the Employer dissappeared!

Any Student or travel Visas should also have strict enforcement/accountablity requirements.

As for the Borders-Make Work unavailable with Hyperactive ID verification of EVERY Job, withj $1,000 fines per worker per Day, and then the Magnet for illegal Workers gets shut off, and existing here in a Society with ID's gets real hard, real Quick!

I have MY ID, I don't mind Showing it! In most places, if you do not have an ID, you are in violation of a law called "Failure to ID"!

Fools. 20,000,000 Invaders, of Adult age, is @ 1 out of every 10 people!


Mitt Romney!- He'll Enforce our Laws!

Posted by: rat-the | November 13, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

No More REpubliCONSs in office...EVER. I'm tired of George, I'm tired of his supporters, I'm tired of the RepubliCON party.

Go Democrats

Posted by: camera_eye_1 | November 13, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

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