Thursday, September 16, 2004
by Wayne Besen
With roughly 50 days to go before Election Day, this is our choice: The Flip Flopper vs. The Flop. Bush wants to convince the nation that Kerry can't make up his mind, while Kerry wants to persuade America that Bush is mindless.
With the economy tanking, the deficit ballooning, Iraq exploding, Afghanistan imploding, North Korea near detonating and AK-47s proliferating, Americans should be sick and tired of Bush. Well, hopefully just tired because it's likely they lost their health insurance on the president's watch.
The anemic job market has Republicans stretching denial to new, surreal lengths. Vice President Dick Cheney even implied that people aren't really jobless; they're just self-employed and selling goods on E-Bay.
"That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney said. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on E-bay."
Did it occur to our compassionate VP that some of these folks are desperately unemployed and using E-Bay as a cyber pawn shop so they can afford an extra box of Hamburger Helper to feed their kids?
Even though Kerry has everything working for him, he'll never win unless he stops working against himself. The public understands the Bush family put the "nasty" in Dynasty. In a post 9-11 world, people are waiting to see if Kerry is mean enough to fight back.
So far, Kerry has failed the toughness test. As his aides judiciously ponder whether to take the high road or low road, Republicans focus on the brutal, muddy road to victory.
The most obvious example is Kerry's sluggish and flaccid response to Republican efforts to discredit his distinguished war record. The Kerry campaign hoped the outrageous charge that he didn't deserve his medals would die.
In the old media paradigm you could make a few calls and squash a fallacious story. With the advent of 24-hour news and a well-oiled right wing propaganda machine, there is no charge that can go unanswered.
The moment the ad questioning his record was put out, Kerry should have held an indignant press conference surrounded by veterans and growled, "I know making up stories about military service or lack thereof is a specialty of this administration. But I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and let AWOL George and Deferment Dick mislead America about my honorable service. I call on them to denounce this smear campaign by their sleazy front group."
Because the campaign didn't respond in this way, many people, and not necessarily Republicans, believe there is at least a grain of truth in the allegations. They assume where there's smoke there's fire, because Kerry didn't answer the smoke with enough fire.
This lack of killer instinct surfaced again in the Kerry campaign's tepid response to Deferment Dick suggesting that a vote for Kerry was akin to a vote for terrorism. Senator John Edwards meekly replied that Cheney, "Absolutely crossed the line".
Um, yeah, so what are you going to do about it? For Republicans there are no lines. They play by a different set of rules on a different playing field.
Kerry got another shot to flex his muscles when it was revealed that Bush lied about his service in the National Guard. They even received a gift word in one of the incriminating memos that said Bush's commander felt pressure to "sugarcoat" Bush's performance rating.
Why isn't Edwards out exploiting this for maximum gain like Karl Rove would have Cheney do? This is what Edwards should repeat every day until Election Day:
"George Bush has led a charmed life where he has created catastrophes for others without personal consequence. He is a man of special privilege who has gotten breaks on the backs of others.
"During Vietnam, while others died, Bush had his performance rating sugarcoated. Today he sugarcoats the fact he turned he biggest surplus in history into the biggest deficit. He sugarcoats his war of choice by forbidding Americans to see pictures of the 1000 coffins of patriotic soldiers lost in Iraq.
"Bush sugarcoats that he is the first President since the Great Depression to preside over a net loss of jobs, while he applauds sending your jobs overseas. In four years, the coat of sugar has worn off and we are left with the bitter pill of Bush's failed legacy."
For Kerry to come back he needs to set the terms of the debate. He should start referring to Bush's tax cuts as "slashing services". When discussing Bush's plan for permanent tax-cuts, he should call them "permanent deficits." When Bush exploits same-sex marriage, Kerry should accuse him of "pandering for votes by dividing America, the way he has already divided the world."
Bush did nothing to stop a 10-year-old law from expiring this week that banned assault rifles such as Uzis and AK-47's. Kerry should change the name of these weapons from "assault weapons" to "Terror Weapons" and run ads that say Bush is in favor of "Terror weapons flooding America's streets."
Onstage during the Democratic convention, Kerry saluted and barked, "reporting for duty." Now that you've reported, sir, get off the windsurfer, put on your combat boots and start fighting, while you still have a fighting chance.