AUSTIN, Texas -- We have nothing to fear but fear itself, especially since fear is now being fomented and manipulated for political purposes by a bunch of shameless hacks. Who is trying to make you afraid and why? This Karl Rove tactic is getting quite threadbare, in fact, and so much so that it is getting dangerously close to comedy.

My favorite episode, of course, was the Miami terrorists, a fearsome horde of seven described by the FBI's deputy director as, "More inspirational that operational." That means wanna-bes. An FBI informant posing as a member of al-Qaida offered to supply the plotters with material for the jihad, so they asked for boots and uniforms. Every terrorist needs a uniform.

Of course, even a nincompoop can succeed occasionally -- but the list of wanna-bes keeps growing. Seventeen people were arrested in Canada for intending to behead the prime minister. Has anyone in all of history ever cared that much about a Canadian prime minister?

Their national motto is, "Now, let's not get excited."

Of the hundreds of prisoners, alleged terrorists all, who have been held at Guantanamo on the grounds that they were the worst of the worst, only 10 have ever been charged with anything. In the latest episode, shortly after announcement of a British-based plot to blow up airliners, Britain and the United States were already airing their differences over when the perpetrators should have been arrested.

The administration has put itself in the position of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. If, God forbid, a serious terrorist conspiracy is uncovered, there will be a tendency to dismiss it as a backlash to these over-hyped "plots."

I personally have been sleeping more soundly at night knowing that Michael Chertoff is secretary of homeland security. Ever since Chertoff's agency brought us the stunning news that there are more terrorist targets in Indiana than in New York or Washington, I've realized this guy could find a terrorist plot anywhere. Watch out for the Amish -- they'll run right over you with those buggies, and they all have pitchforks, too. I hear they're connected to al-Qaida through Saddam Hussein.

Should you be suffering a fear shortage despite the administration's best efforts, consider the paralyzing news of the defeat of Joe Lieberman. According to none other than our very own Veep Dick Cheney, Lieberman's defeat helps the terrorists. Yes! How can this be, you ask? Well, you know Joe Lieberman has been supporting Bush's war in Iraq, and we are at war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was allied to al-Qaida and had weapons of mass destruction, see? He wasn't? He didn't? Gee, maybe that's why the Democrats were upset with Lieberman!

Lieberman's unhappy fall in electoral battle touched off a volcano of drivel in the media. Some of it should be written off as the incurable Establishment tendency to defend its own. People who have known Joe Lieberman for 18 years are naturally predisposed in his favor -- always happens. On the other had, what a bunch of codswallop from people who should know better. They're behaving as though no one had a right to challenge Lieberman, whereas given his record, I can't think of anyone who deserved challenge more.

The pusillanimous punditry announce that these fools in the Democratic Party may make the war in Iraq a major issue! Horrors! I hate to pull the old advantages-of-provincialism trick, but I do think the D.C. press corps and political establishment are painfully out of touch and need to get out into the country more. Indiana, anyone?

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