I remember hearing last week that we could expect an “October Surprise” from Al Qaeda if for no other reason than to tip the election to John McCain. Why McCain, you ask? The vote of confidence seems counterintuitive. McCain is the hawk who has described Islamic fundamentalism as one of the primary threats of our time.
Because McCain (pictured at the Western Wall with Sen. Joe Lieberman) would prove better for future crops of young men pissed off about American boots on Muslim soil. The surprise came a few days ago. Nicholas Kristof explains:
“Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” read a commentary on a password-protected Islamist Web site that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and often disseminates the group’s propaganda.
The endorsement left the McCain campaign sputtering, and noting helplessly that Hamas appears to prefer Barack Obama. Al Qaeda’s apparent enthusiasm for Mr. McCain is manifestly not reciprocated.
“The transcendent challenge of our time [is] the threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” Senator McCain said in a major foreign policy speech this year, adding, “Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House.”
That’s a widespread conservative belief. Mitt Romney compared the threat of militant Islam to that from Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Some conservative groups even marked “Islamofascism Awareness Week” earlier this month.
Yet the endorsement of Mr. McCain by a Qaeda-affiliated Web site isn’t a surprise to security specialists. Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism director, and Joseph Nye, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, have both suggested that Al Qaeda prefers Mr. McCain and might even try to use terror attacks in the coming days to tip the election to him.
“From their perspective, a continuation of Bush policies is best for recruiting,” said Professor Nye, adding that Mr. McCain is far more likely to continue those policies.
You might not agree with this logic. But Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Looming Tower,” has previously said Al Qaeda was on the fritz after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: “Iraq brought it back to life.”