Unlike our administration, Al Qaeda seems eager to respond to questions from journalists, and is inviting them to submit questions to its No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the first post-9/11 interview of this type to be offered by the terror network.
An ad appeared on an Islamic militant website, suggesting that "individuals, agencies and all media" submit written questions for al-Zawahiri through January 16th, at which time he will answer them asap. Al-Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda's foremost spokesman, has appeared in some 16 videos and audiotapes this year, compared to four for Osama bin Laden, perhaps outshining our press-phobic leader.
Taking a tip from Bush's press conferences, Al Qaeda will have an opportunity to screen questions and choose which to answer. Their online forum may provide an opportunity for Helen Thomas to finally get a question answered.
It will be particularly interesting to see how al-Zawahiri responds to questions Bush typically ducks, such as:
What are you doing about Social Security?
Have you made any mistakes?
Why don't you personally extend condolences to families of victims?
What do you consider torture?
How do you feel about your low ratings in the polls?
Where is Osama bin Laden, and why hasn't he been captured? (This is where Bush asks, "Is that a follow-up question", cracking a snide joke in place of giving a direct response).
One wonders what inspired tthe terrorist organization to launch a media campaign. Did a focus group reveal its image is in need of bolstering? Has it hired a savvy press agent? Is Al-Zawahiri stewing that he wasn't named Time's "Man of the year"?
If al-Zawahiri draws a big audience, might we expect to see him on "The View"? Making peach tarts with Martha Stewart? Promoting a book on "Oprah"? Posting on Facebook or Friendster? We'll know he's found his way to Match.com when we spot a profile reading, "Looking for 72 virgins".