Saturday, August 21, 2004

Battle Stations

Yesterday I wrote a long diary essay on that suggested Kerry really has nothing to worry about, despite some recent indications that the polls are moving away from him. Basically I argued that because the campaign is now limited by its $75 million in public funding and saving money for the post-Labor Day sprint while Bush continues to raise private funds until he's nominated, Kerry has less of an on-air presence right now--but the underlying factors, including the implausibility of framing the race on Kerry's character rather than Bush's (atrocious) record and the tendency of undecided voters to break late against the incumbent, remained strongly in the challenger's favor.

A bit more than 24 hours later, this all remains true. But I also think Josh Marshall is right that it's time to give the bully a bloody nose:

This whole Swift Boat episode is entirely in keeping not just with the record of George W. Bush, but, to be frank, his whole family. Think back to the 1988 and 1992 presidential races. Partly, it's in the their political DNA. But it's also in the nature of blue bloods trying to ape populist politics -- for the key example, see the 1992 GOP convention in Houston and the sad antics of Bush family retainer Rich Bond.

I said a few days ago that it was ridiculous to compare the ads run by Moveon to the Swift Boat ones. And it's true -- they're very soft soap in comparison. But that's a mistake. They should be hitting much harder.

The president has chosen the ground on which he wants to fight this campaign. And as per usual he's mobilized friends and family retainers to do the fighting for him. The president is playing tackle football, not touch or flag. If the Dems keep up with the latter they'll lose.

Back in the primaries John Kerry would say that if the Bushies thought they could pull a Max Cleland on him, he'd say, "Bring it on." Well, it's on.

It's true that Kerry to some extent "brought it on" himself by pushing his military service as such a big selling point. And the Bushes are really just running the same crap they've thrown at Democratic contenders Dukakis, Clinton and Gore before Kerry--he's an opportunist, he's unprincipled, he's a little crazy. Maybe the principle of diminishing returns is at work. But Clinton was the only one to withstand the attack, probably because he hit back the hardest. Now Kerry needs to do the same, and Marshall correctly points out that the Bush record--from his Alabama AWOL days in/not in the National Guard to whatever deregulatory atrocity his minions pushed through last week--is such a target-rich environment that the Democrats absolutely must strike back. Maybe the best way to do it is to simply ask the American people questions on Bush policy choices, e.g.

--Would you have invaded Iraq, with a thousand Americans killed, despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction and the near-total opposition of the rest of the world, with bin Laden and al Qaeda still at large?

--Would you have given away trillions in projected surpluses to pass tax cuts that privilege wealth over work and the already-rich over the middle class?

--Should the government have exposed a CIA operative for apparently political reasons, thus committing a felony offense, and then effectively stonewalled the investigation?

--Is a prescription drug benefit passed through misinforming Congress and offering much more value to pharmaceutical donors to the president than to American seniors, really a benefit worth the name?

and of course...

--Are you--and is America--better off today than we were four years ago?

Feel free to add your own. Try it, it's fun.

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