Time is not your friend
You're not the man your father is, or your mother
There isn't a day which goes by in which some comment laments John Kerry's campaign. And most of those comments are dead wrong. Bush is going to lose. He is going to lose badly.
Not because of wishful thinking, not because I hold him in disdain. But because time and effort is not on his side. This race is close, now, but it won't be for long. Bush is poised on a cliff to go down, LBJ-like down, with only the economy as a possible buffer against disaster. No incumbent president since Truman and LBJ has faced this kind of war time dilemma and neither ran again. Bush's numbers are bad and getting worse. Bush, as an incumbent, should be above 50 percent, and he's not. Which the big red flag of campaigns and even the Bushies know it. They are desperate for the bleeding to stop in Iraq and it won't.
I'm listening to Howard Stern read letters from active duty servicemen who are going to see Michael Moore's new movie and coming out with changed minds. Which is depressing, as seeing the victims of cons usually are. This is a very different enviroment than any election in our lifetimes. Not because the stakes are so high and they are, but because the way the election is being fought.
In the past, the Democrats have had to deal with a sea of enemies, rich Republicans and their think tanks, low rent campaigning pioneered by Nixon, and brought to fruition by the late Lee Atwater and his acolyte Floyd Brown. But things have changed and for the better. Howard Dean, while not able to run an effective campaign internally, managed to harness the good will of millions of people, far beyond those who gave money to his campaign. The Kerry campaign, which pretty much blitzed their opponents from Iowa on, managed to get much of that good will and then ran with it. While there isn't the enthusiasm for Kerry as there was for Dean, there is still more than enough than for any Democratic candidate in a very long time. It took months for Clinton to become that popular and he was never that well funded. Kerry has beat all expected fundraising totals and is supported by a united Democratic party. The circular firing squad is limited to some Nader supporters who still refuse to see their cult hero for what he is, a tool of the GOP.
But the difference between this and other elections is that the Kerry campaign is not the sole Democratic effort. You don't have to work for Kerry to dump Bush. There's Move On and a bunch of 527 organizations which have created a major distraction for the Bush campaign. The White House has to worry about more than Kerry and his fundraisng. They have a constant rotating set of targets, one day, it's Richard Clarke, the next, it's Michael Moore, then George Soros. None of these men are running for office. Yet, the Bush Administration and by extension, the campaign has to deal with people who are not running for office.
Their entire ad campaign has failed to move the numbers, mainly because the ads suck. From the 9/11 ad, which was amazingly provocative, to the flip flop and defense ads, not only are they negative, they're wrong and overwrought. Bush totally misread how people, especially New Yorkers, would react to seeing a corpse carried out from Ground Zero. It was a tremendous mistake and deeply offensive. Some GOP 527 is ressurecting 9/11 shots, but even they will get the hint soon. The one thing, no one, no one, would have believed, even six months ago, is that 9/11 would be a disaster for Bush. It doesn't matter how much you blame Clinton, he isn't president any longer. Bush is and Bush will bear the brunt of the 9/11 Commission report. Anyone thinking anything different is delusional.
The Bush camapign is as much a captive of events as anything. And the events are all bad. Abu Ghraib, the Plame scandal, losing in the Supreme Court, John Ashcroft repeatedly embarssing himself before the 9/11 commission and Congress. Nothingt has goine right vfor Bush for months. Even Reagan's funeral ended with him getting slammed by Ron Reagan, and open denunciations of plans to tie the Bush and Reagan legacies. Now, rumors are seeping through that Bush is cracking under the pressure. There has to be days when he wakes up and thinks the world hates him. But unlike Bill Clinton, who would have been self-pitying, it would largely be true. He cannot go to Europe without mobs hating him. Not just protesting him, but suggesting he needs a Dutch vacation next to Slobodan Milosevic.
Some "progressives" like Tim Robbins, wonder why Kerry doesn't make some radical leftist statement, and cater to their needs. When Bush does the same to the fundies, people like Robbins get their drawers in a bunch. So why should Kerry risk alienating people who are looking for an excuse to embrace Bush. "Oh, he's too liberal", "he's going to waste our money", are typical excuses. Kerry needs to avoid giving them those excuses, Which is why he's not running against the war, but Bush's management of it. The Europeans are going to tell him no to troops, just like they told Bush. It's a parlimentary non-starter. In fact, expect withdrawals from Iraq, not additions. The fact is that next year, Kerry will have to withdraw from Iraq and leave a weakened government to solve its own problems. Because the choice is moving fast towards a draft or withdrawal and we'll run from Iraq before the sons of the middle class are forced to fight. Not that I think a draft would pass, or that advocating it wouldn't be political suicide, but the numbers are not looking good.
Kerry deserves a lot more credit for running a smart campaign than anyone has given him. The trick is to get the chance to govern, not to be right and lose. Denouncing the war in Iraq may be morally right, but Bush would pervert that into some anti-America screed. So the best way to prevent that is to stay as close to Bush as possible and then hammer him on the management, not the reasons for the war. Now, I wish Kerry could hammer Bush on starting this aggressive, pointless war, but that isn't going to work. It will be far easier to follow the public than lead it. For now, Kerry's main goal has to be to not make mistakes. Why? Because Bush is making so many. A muted comment here and there and sticking to working the base is a smart strategy. Let Bush fritter his money, strength and effort on people not running for office. Instead of letting it leak that the White House has banned staffers from Fahrenheit 9/11, ask the man for a print to show in the White House. Say and do nothing to get more attention to the film and generally ignore it. You don't let your allies sue to get Kerry's sealed divorce records. You don't run stupid ads attacking George Soros. You don't demand his wife's tax records. You ignore him. Moore and Soros and even Move On are not the people you're running against. It's John Kerry. Every second spent debating people not running for anything is a gift to John Kerry.
Why do they do this? Because Bush cannot take an insult. Anything insulting him is deemed a mortal offense. So he wastes time going after Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson and anyone who pops out the woodwork. People who cannot affect his election chances unless he lets them. So he flails about against all enemies, and ignores the things which will nail him. The two most dangerous people to Bush are nowhere near the Kerry Campaign, Michael Moore's warroom, George Soros's Open Society or Move On. They're John McCain and Lindsay Graham. No matter what they say, their quest for answers about Abu Ghraib pose the most danger to Bush and may well ruin him.
People wonder why he ignored Al Qeada, well, Bush ignores all mortal threats to him. Al Qaeda, John Kerry, and when he does act, it's ineffective. Kerry's flanks are protected, Bush's are not and he doesn't even know it. Let someone get indicted in this White House, and it's back to the pig farm. Here's a question: has anyone who seen's Moore film liked Bush more? Of course Moore is disingenious, just because it's true doesn't mean it isn't propaganda. The problem for Bush is not that Moore is a skilled filmmaker, but that Bush looks so bad on tape. Which is the campaign's central problem, which is the best reason to not reelect Bush is Bush.
posted by Steve @ 11:58:00 AM