Despite the PR, the threat remains

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Ah, we have a new counterterrorism strategy, I see. Could this, the cynic in me asks, have anything to do with the November elections? Our commander in chief is on the stump, trying to redirect Americans' attention toward what a great job he and his administration have done protecting us from another 9/11. He also struts his stuff, claiming al Qaeda is significantly downgraded since he sicced our military on it.

The president says a weaker al Qaeda is now outgunned by smaller terrorist networks and "individuals motivated by al Qaeda ideology, a lack of freedom, and 'twisted' propaganda about U.S. policy in the Middle East."

This time Americans aren't buying--particularly female voters. More on that in my next entry.

But terrorism experts aren't buying either. Harper's posted an interview on its website with Michael Scheuer, a CIA veteran of 22 years who retired two years ago and is the former chief of the bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He was asked whether alQaeda is stronger or weaker than it was five years ago.

Scheuer's view: "The quality of its leadership is not as high as it was in 2001, because we've killed and captured so many of its leaders. But they have succession planning that works very well. We keep saying that we're killing their leaders, but you notice that we keep having to kill their No. 2's, 3's, and 4's all over again. They bring in replacements, and these are not novices off the street--they're understudies. From the very first, bin Laden has said that he's just one person and al Qaeda is a vanguard organization."

Quite a different view from the one the president is promoting.

Meanwhile, the president's credibility with voters on this issue is so subpar that the media are rife with reports that congressional Republicans who support his Iraq policy (to wit, almost all of them) will suffer at the polls in November.

A new CNN poll on voters' attitudes toward the war in Iraq asked, "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who has supported the policies of the Bush administration?" Fifty-eight percent of women and 52 percent of men said they would be less likely to do so.

Up next: How male and female voters differ on the Bush antiterrorism campaign.