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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Welcome to hell, George

Hell. Or where the GOP campaign is going in a handbasket

The GOP ticket's week from hell

Last week’s presidential debate might very well turn out to be the pivotal moment in the 2004 election, with an unfiltered Bush finally revealing his full limitations before 66 million Americans. But it is this week that will go down in history as the point when the wheels began to come off the Bush-Cheney juggernaut. The Republicans' week started on a dismal note with a massive report on page one of the Sunday New York Times that exhaustively detailed how the administration built its case for war on a false claim that aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were intended for manufacturing a nuclear bomb. It went quickly downhill for the Bush team after that. On Monday Defense Secretary Rumsfeld suddenly veered off-message, telling a Council on Foreign Relations luncheon that he knew of no "strong, hard evidence" proving a connection between Saddam and al-Qaida. The same day, just in time to give John Edwards more ammunition for his face-off with Cheney, former U.S. occupation chief Paul Bremer told an insurance conference in West Virginia that the Bush administration had gone into Iraq with too few troops to secure the peace.

By Tuesday night the Bush campaign was hungry for a one-sided Cheney triumph in the suddenly critical vice-presidential debate. Instead, the stoop-shouldered and weary-looking vice president was forced up a tree by his aggressive opponent, with the gruff old veep growling down at the snapping, young hound below him for over 90 miserable minutes.

It was more political meltdown on Wednesday, with chief U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer declaring in his final report to Congress that Saddam had no WMD program after inspectors left Iraq in 1998, once and for all knocking out the key Bush argument for war. Meanwhile there was more carnage on the war front, and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad sent out a sobering e-mail, warning American personnel to steer clear of the Lone Star restaurant and other popular spots in the supposedly top-security Green Zone and to "conduct a thorough search of your vehicle prior to entering it." Oh, and oil prices continued to spike, in part because of the instability of the Iraq supply.

But hey, other than that, as Bush and Cheney keep insisting, things are looking up! Maybe they’re just channeling Richard Farina, the ‘60s folk singer who authored "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me."

Meanwhile, after promising a major policy speech on Iraq on Wednesday, Bush simply ratcheted up his increasingly shrill rhetoric, calling Kerry "dangerous" on foreign policy and suggesting the Democratic candidate picked his running mate for his hair. Bush’s wild punches are beginning to take on the same whiff of desperation his father gave off during the last stretch of his losing battle with Bill Clinton in 1992, when the elder Bush began bizarrely referring to Al Gore as "ozone man." As the AP reported Wednesday, "Political analysts see alarm bells ringing inside the Bush re-election effort."

As Bush heads for St. Louis and his second debate with Kerry, the table has turned on him. Now he’s the one under pressure to revive his stumbling campaign with a powerful performance. If he fails, his week from hell could become a month from hell.

-- David Talbot

See the fear, smell the panic:

Bush Chides Kerry in Pa. After VP Debate
The Associated Press

WILKES BARRE, Pa. Oct. 6, 2004 — President Bush, in biting criticism of his Democratic challenger, said Wednesday that Sen. John Kerry has "a strategy of defeat" for Iraq and an economic program that would imperil America at home.

Bush addressed hundreds of applauding supporters on his 38th trip to the swing state of Pennsylvania as he worked to overcome last week's shaky debate performance and new controversy over the White House's handling of the war in Iraq.

The president said, "My opponent's endless back-and-forth on Iraq is part of a larger misunderstanding. In the war on terror, Senator Kerry is proposing policies and doctrines that would weaken America and make the world more dangerous."

Regarding the battle against terrorists, Bush said, "Senator Kerry approaches the war with a September the 10th mindset ... that any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. That was the mindset of the 1990s, while al-Qaida was planning the attacks on America. After September the 11th our object in the war on terror is not to wait for the next attack and respond but to prevent attacks by taking the fight to the enemy."

On the economy, Bush said, "My opponent is a tax-and-spend liberal; I'm a compassionate conservative."

"The senator is proposing higher taxes on more than 900,000 small business owners," said Bush. "My opponent is one of the few candidates in history to campaign on a pledge to raise taxes. And that's the kind of promise a politician from Massachusetts usually keeps."

Two days before the second presidential debate, Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said Bush was trying to put a new face on the last one.

"The president tried to redo the debate from last week by giving a speech full of untruths he couldn't say on stage with John Kerry because he knew Kerry would knock them down," Singer said. "George Bush needs to get real with the American people and start telling the truth."
In the final month of campaigning before the Nov. 2 election, both candidates are hitting a new level of harsh rhetoric.

When Bush said this week that Kerry's foreign policy stands "are dangerous for world peace" a contention he repeated in Pennsylvania Kerry countered that Bush was resorting to a "blanket scare tactic."

Political analysts see alarm bells ringing inside the Bush re-election effort.

When a campaign "makes changes like this they're worried about something and they have a lot to worry about right now," said David Rohde, who teaches political science at Michigan State University.

"Bush had the chance to put the race away in the last debate. That didn't happen," he said.

Bush will be even more desperate on Friday. Which is amusing.

Look, his campaign has been spinning out of control since the failure of the Swift Boat ads. The convention didn't help matters. The GOP's fear has come from one source, the new registrations. The draft issue not only blindsided them, they have zero credibility on the issue and all related topics. Cheney lied in plain sight last night. But the registrations have undone Rove's game plan. He wanted to get evangelicals in the polling places and hoped that the Dems couldn't mobilize their voters. Which was insane, of course, but they stuck with it all summer and winter and past spring. But the fact is that the Rove plan was a thin shot to begin with. They simply didn't see ACT coming.

It is ACT, more than Move On, Michael Moore or the DNC, which has changed the rules. It was ACT's massive registration drives which brought out the new voters.

What is absolutely killing the GOP is the draft. That vote yesterday in the House means nothing because Bush has no credibility. The problem with Bush's apporach to Kerry is twofold, one he has no successes to show and two, he simply cannot be trusted to be straight with people. Bush is being hammered by a phantom, or more honestly the ghosts of 1,064 dead soliders. He may not make it to their funerals, but their existance may lead to his political death. No matter how harshly he characterizes Kerry and his campaign is so desperate that they use the words "compassionate conservative", none of that is sticking.

What the GOP also knows and has known for a month or so is that those new voters is going to swamp them. Bush is in trouble and he's taking the party with him. Tom DeLay's little problems with corruption don't help matters. But the massive GOTV and fundraising drive is going to cost Bush is job and they are desperate to prevent that.

The killer was last Thursday, and it may well not be better this Friday. Bush will try to be both charming and cutting and it isn't going to work. Bush isn't stupid, but he is lazy and John Kerry is anything but.

Also, Bush is arrogant as hell. He's changing because he's losing, but it probably will not work in time to save him.

posted by Steve @ 9:38:00 PM

9:38:00 PM

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