Monday, August 30, 2004


"So, waddaya do now, Mr. War Hero?"
The Democrats are worried.

OK, so you knew that. In fact, it makes sense for Senator Kerry to be nervous right now, with his lead pretty much blown in the poll concensus. But there are undercurrents showing up, which indicate that the countdown to the November election, may be likened to the altimeter of a plane in a spiral, unable to right itself.

Today's flashing red light on the dashboard comes from Newsweek columnist Donna Brazile, who is described by Newsweek as "a senior political strategist and former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman in 2000". OK, that could be a little intimidating, since Gore did close well in the final weeks of the 2000 election, which made the months afterwards such a mess. But Brazile's advice to Kerry seems strangely timed, and frankly, unfeasible for this particular candidate.

Brazile begins her article with the title, "How to Beat Bush". Sorry, but I have to stop right here and laugh. This title has three problems for me, right away:

  1. Since Gore didn't beat Bush in 2000, for his manager to be claiming to know how to do it now, strikes me as just a bit presumptuous;
  2. Wouldn't you think Kerry's campaign team would respond to such a title with something like, 'thanks, we already have a plan'? I'd be very surprised to hear anyone on Team Kerry say, 'huh-we never thought of that!'
  3. If these are such great ideas for a campaign, shouldn't Brazile have suggested them back in, say, March or April?

Anyway, Brazile goes on to say why Kerry still is in good shape. Brazile says "Kerry has utilized the ubiquitous Bill Clinton as a surrogate of sorts". Uh-huh. Sure, now that I think of it, John Kerry is just like Bill-uhhh, maybe if I try harder, yeah he really does remind me - actually, sorry Donna, but Kerry reminds me, as the joke goes, of Al Gore without the charisma. Bill Clinton, uhhhh, no.

Next, Brazile reminds us about the "scurrilous attacks on former Vice President Gore's character". Uh, hmm, sorry, Donna, I don't recall that. Since Donna doesn't actually note any specifics, I guess she's just using that for theatrical effect. That makes a kind of sense, since Brazile goes on to report how " Kerry had to personally respond to these scurrilous attacks on his character with the hopes of setting the record straight before November." To suggest that Kerry is 'setting the record straight' by trying to suppress a couple hundred decorated Vietnam vets, and by pushing the tattered remains of his war story, after two of its main themes have had to be redacted and removed from the stage, and those medals he did/did not throw over the fence now coming into dispute at the source , can only be called literary license, at best.

Brazile moves on to suggest three "simple truths", and I'll give her this - the three she selects are critical to both sides, but I find little reason to be optimistic for Kerry in those arenas.

First, Brazile say, Kerry needs a strong, compelling, message. Okay, that makes sense. But what message does Brazile suggest? "America can do better". Uh-huh, yeah. Donna, has it occurred to you, that a lot of people could take that slogan, turn it around, and say something like "America can do better than Kerry" just as easily as they could say "America can do better than Bush". This is important, because the polls consistently say Bush's people are more energized than Kerry's, and so this kind of slogan isn't going to sway the voters. Or to put it another way, if people aren't excited by Kerry now, this slogan won't charge them up now, will it?

Brazile actually suggests the slogan, "A President You Can Trust". Considering the many questions of his veracity circling Kerry like sharks, does anyone really think that's a good idea to focus on?

Brazile finishes this section by suggesting "the Kerry-Edwards campaign must divide each week up like it is an inning and try to score some points." Sorry, but that's flat-out stupid. If history is any teacher, no lead is safe, and there's no such thing as scoring points before the election. Anyone who hasn't voted yet, could change their mind about who to support, or even whether they will vote. And people smell artificial stunts; if Kerry looks like he's playing games instead of trying to look Presidential, he'll only shoot more holes in his dinghy.

Brazile goes on to opine, "the candidate who wins may be the one who makes the fewest mistakes". Two problems there. First, as obvious as that message is, it should be obvious that no one plans to screw up; there's no way to pretend mistakes won't happen, and in my experience, telling someone 'don't blow it' only puts more pressure on them. Second, when Kerry's mistakes are considered, it seems to me that they are driven by his personality. To me, that means that the only way to prevent more of the same, is to ask Kerry to change his behavior radically. That could explain his hermit act the past three weeks. Some leading Democrat is trying to play Dr. Henry Higgins to Kerry's Eliza Doolittle.

Brazile tells Kerry "nothing makes up for quality candidate appearances and events. Kerry must get to know these voters and what they care about" . That would be vital advice, but it needs to be there at the start. After Kerry told West Virginia voters that mining was "dirty", after he told vets in Ohio that the Swift Boat vets were lying and he was telling the truth, after he suggested to Catholics that he believed life began at conception, yet supported Abortion, Kerry has made it a minefield to reach those people on their level. He either lied then, or he has to lie now. Either way, Kerry has written off a lot of people, and whatever reason he had then, it's a but late to try to start all over again. Not only do people remember what the candidate says, the fact is, it's too hard to wipe out all the traces.

In her last point, Brazile warns Kerry not to approach the Presidential Debates "like they are a Harvard-Yale Society debate". Good advice, that. But then, Brazile suggests the debates "will serve as Kerry's chance to show voters who he is as a person. They will want to be comfortable with him. Kerry must come across like a next-door neighbor. " Yeah, like his DNC performance? Think about it. Every time Kerry tries to be a regular guy, it comes back on him. He goes to Wendy's, remember, to try the chili and be aregular guy, but instead he annoys a group of Marines who just want to eat their lunch, and instead the photo op works for Bush. And of course, the gourmet meal on the bus that Kerry really ate, that didn't help. The custom shirts and salon haircut, the Botox, the 'regular-guy' attempts to sell Windsurfing as something everybody does, and telling how he crawls on his belly to hunt deer, these tell their own story. Personally, I hope Kerry keeps trying to sell himself as a regular guy. If he does, Bush will win by 30 points.

Brazile's final advice to Kerry, she says "Kerry should feel, look and act like a winner." That might be good therapy, but that won't make him a winner. But then, I have to sympathize with Ms. Brazile. Kerry's real problems are a lot harder to fix, and frankly, unless Kerry himself decides to take a hard look and face his own limits, all he can do, really, is pretend the disaster isn't real.

The Democrats are beginnning to realize how real that disaster is.

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