It’s amazing watching the Republican Convention how many African-Americans appear to be in the audience. Every other cutaway from Cheney’s speech last night was to a non-white face. Watching it, it was impossible not to think one thing:

Who are they kidding?

I think that a lot about the Republicans. I think it when they talk about the economy, or education, or health care.

And I think it constantly when they talk about national security.

Really, who are they kidding?

The answer, I’m afraid is: just enough people to get reelected.

I understand why Kerry is spending so much time talking about domestic issues. According to polls — polls, which both gave birth to and killed modern politics — the American public has more faith in the Democrats on the economy, education, and, well, just about everything. But the Republicans are trouncing us on national security.

Who are they kidding? A lot of people.

And I still don’t get it. There’s no real barometer on winning the war on terror, and even our flipflopping president seems to know that. But Republicans have gained the upper hand by tying national security to patriotism. Oppose the war in Iraq, and they’ll accuse you of not supporting the troops. Oppose the Patriot Act, and they’ll accuse you of being soft on terrorism. Oppose Bush in anything, and they’ll accuse you of being un-American.

I just wish Kerry would be more aggressive on the issue. For every argument the Republicans make that Bush is winning the war on terrorism, there’s an equal or more effective counterargument that he’s not, and Kerry would look much stronger on the subject if he took the offensive a bit more. Let the Republicans trot out Saddam. Kerry should constantly be asking where Osama is, and letting the American people know that the focus on nabbing Saddam, who’s never attacked America, has allowed Osama, who attacks us again and again, to remain at large. Let the Republicans talk about Iraq. Kerry should be talking about how poorly planned the invasion was and how devastating the costs have been for our troops and for the war on terror overall.

The Republicans love to talk about how Kerry flip-flopped on the Iraq war. If he were a better politician, Kerry would realize he could use this as an advantage, too. It’s a sign that he’s above partisan voting, a reminder that Bush lied to us about his reasons for going to war and an indictment of the lack of forethought that went into the invasion. Why not say that he voted to give Bush the authority to go to war because he trusted the President, and as it turned out, the President didn’t know what he was doing? Kerry should make it clear that didn’t flip-flop. He got let down. And he got let down by exactly the man he’s running against.

Whenever Republicans allude to the lack of attacks on American soil since 9/11 as evidence that our country is safer, Kerry should remind people that terrorism worldwide has been on the rise, and that a close American ally was brutally attacked by al Qaeda just six months ago. Clearly, the bad guys are still out there, and they’re plotting against us. Anyone who feels safer thanks to Bush’s war on terror isn’t paying attention, and anyone who gives George Bush the credit for keeping us safe must not have heard of a neglected memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States.” I’d imagine every presidential daily briefing these days contains those words, but still, we haven’t found Bin Laden.

“Bin Laden”: Those two words could win Kerry the election. Bush brings up 9/11 whenever possible, then goes right to Saddam. Kerry should bring up 9/11, too, then go right to Bin Laden. Hopefully, voters would be able to figure out which one of them is more in touch with how to win the war on terrorism.

Bush and friends have already shown they’ll stop at nothing to win an election. The attacks are working, and as the election gets closer, they’re only going to get worse. By late October, they’ll be trying to convince every resident of every swing state that a vote for Kerry pretty much ensures that nuclear bombs will be dropping on Toledo within months. And if Kerry doesn’t fight back now, people will believe it.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but you can fool just enough of them every four years to keep fooling them indefinitely.

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