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Why No Bin Laden Tape?

Like a lot of you, I spent last week worrying that northwest Pakistan's most famous spokesmodel might release another demo tape in time for the election, as he did four years ago. But the tape never came.

Why wouldn't bin Laden try to influence yet another U.S. election? Surely he prefers McCain to a president named Barack Hussein Obama--much harder to argue that America is anti-Muslim in the latter instance. (And, no, I'm not saying Obama is a Muslim.)

Here's the logic I used to reassure myself: Bin Laden is, if nothing else, a pretty canny self-promoter who can read polls (or at least like the rest of us. Four years ago, Bush appeared to have a slight lead heading into the homestretch. What better way to appear to have influence over an election than to help the guy who's likely to win?

Conversely, in the final week or so before today's election, Obama appeared to have a pretty insurmountable lead. Even if a bin Laden tape would have narrowed the margin, it probably wouldn't have made a winner of McCain. In which case it would have exposed bin Laden to be kind of impotent.

Which is to say, bin Laden's probably more a validator of trends than an initiator of them. Think of him as the Colin Powell of Waziristan.  

--Noam Scheiber

Also be sure to check out why Jason Zengerle thinks an Osama bin Laden tape would've actually widened Obama's lead.