GOP "Smear"-ing Democrats by "Playing the Terror Card"

Friday's Metro section story by Kareem Fahimwas headlined"As Election Day Nears, Playing the Terror Card." If that wasn't slanted enough, note the tell-tale word "smear"at the end ofthe URL address to the story (valid as of Friday afternoon), revealing exactly what a Times staffer thinks about accusations from some GOP candidates in New Jersey that their Democratic opponents are soft on terrorism.

"In the waning days of New Jersey's election season, some candidates for local and state office are reaching beyond the usual campaign accusations of corruption and overspending. They are charging their opponents with being soft on terrorism - or rather, with knowing someone who is.

"In one case, opponents of Tracy Riley, a Democrat running for the State Assembly in the Eighth District, mailed campaign materials accusing her of having terrorist sympathies because her husband is a court-appointed defense lawyer for one of the suspects charged with plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix. In another example, State Senator Gerald Cardinale, a Republican, asserted that a widely known civil rights group to which his Democratic opponent's law partner belongs was sympathetic to terrorist organizations."

(The law partner belonged to the state's chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.)

"And in Toms River, Thomas F. Kelaher, the Republican candidate for mayor, sent out a press release noting that his Democratic opponent, Richard T. Strada, a political science professor, had once organized a forum attended by a legal assistant to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Mr. Abdel Rahman was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to carry out a terrorist campaign intended to destroy New York landmarks.

"Terror talk is routine in national campaigns. But in towns like Toms River, Tabernacle and Ho-Ho-Kus, the splash of terrorism-related campaigning might seem odd, considering that local legislators rarely have to confront issues of national security.

"'I'm completely puzzled by it,' said Peter J. Woolley, a professor of comparative politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

"But Ingrid W. Reed, of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, noted that even local races take place 'in the real world and in the shadow of 9/11.'

Some candidates' attempts to portray their opponents as allied with terrorists might appear far-fetched. But Dr. Reed said, 'You can rile people up if you paint them as sympathetic to the enemy, with a very simplistic raising of fears.'"

Fahim certainly can't be accused of riling people up about the threat of terrorism -in an article thissummer, he wouldn't acknowledge that the terror plotters targeting Fort Dix, N.J. were motivated by Islam.