I certainly suspected it at the time, but I had no idea the NSC felt the same way.
Yes, yes it should.
This excerpt is from the very last couple of pages. It's late October 2004, a few days before the election, and Osama bin Laden has just released a long anti-Bush jeremiad. At the CIA, the men and women who know bin Laden best, who have been tracking al-Qaeda practically without rest for the previous three years, are sitting around a table discussing what it means:
What they'd learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons — and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization's leadership. Their assessments, at day's end, are a distillate of the kind of secret, internal conversations that the American public, and by association the wider world community, were not sanctioned to hear: strategic analysis.
Today's conclusion: bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection.
At the five o'clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President."
Around the table, there were nods....Jami Miscik talked about how bin Laden — being challenged by Zarqawi's rise — clearly understood how his primacy as al Qaeda's leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. "Certainly," she offered, "he would want Bush to keep doing what he's doing for a few more years."
But an ocean of hard truths before them — such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected — remained untouched....On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush's ratings [in the U.S.] track with bin Laden's rating in the Arab world.
The fact that we're doing what bin Laden wants doesn't automatically mean we're doing the wrong thing. But it sure as hell ought to give us pause, shouldn't it?
The administration spun it at the time as being an assist by bin Laden to Kerry. That bin Laden's attack on Bush would help Kerry was ridiculous on its face, but that would never stop the administration from relying on our enemies to help keep them in power.