WASHINGTON – President Bush’s domestic security adviser on Sunday dismissed al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden as “virtually impotent.”
The comments by Frances F. Townsend came three days after a new videotape of bin Laden appeared, with the terrorist leader comparing the Iraq war to Vietnam and praising the actions of the 19 airline hijackers who caused the deaths of almost 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Let’s remember almost six years now since September the 11th, we have not seen much of bin Laden,” Townsend said on “Fox News Sunday,” noting this was the third audio or videotape released of him in as many years. “This is about the best he can do. This is a man on the run, from a cave, who is virtually impotent other than these tapes.”
Townsend’s assessment of the terrorist network leader echoed remarks last week by GOP presidential candidate former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who said in response to the latest videotape that bin Laden was “more symbolism than anything else.”
Sens. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., shot back Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” arguing that bin Laden remains a dangerous figure with a broad Internet reach who must be captured.
“He continues to communicate, he continues to lead and he continues to be a symbol for them of leadership in this radical hatred and evil radical Islamic extremism,” said McCain, who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination.
Kerry called bin Laden’s most recent appearance testimony to “the failure of this administration to capture and kill him.”
“Here’s a man who is sending tapes, influencing the region, influencing and recruiting terrorists, who is still directing from Afghanistan and from Pakistan attacks against the United States,” Kerry said. “And we have some Republican candidates for president who think it’s insignificant? That should disqualify them from being president in the first place.”
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