Wednesday, September 08, 2004

All the news sites have stories about Kerry's campaign shake-up. Reporters seem surprised by it. They shouldn't be. Kerry hasn't had a real test since January.

Back when he was campaigning for the Iowa caucuses, Kerry came up with a winning message. Dean was running as the candidate who hated Bush. Kerry ran as the candidate who could beat Bush. He combined his war experience, his brains, and his determination. His ads featured Viet Nam. His speeches boiled down to a two sentence soundbite, "Wouldn't you like to see me debate George Bush? Bring it on!"

Kerry had several things going for his at that point. He had come from behind so no one was focusing on him. All of the attacks had been directed at Dean. Even better, there was a general agreement between the candidates not to attack each other too hard. They wanted a strong challenger for Bush.

Primaries are always tricky. The voters are the hard-core members of the party. The candidate has to sell himself to them while remaining attractive to the more moderate general electorate.

This year was particularly difficult. The primary voters were not voting for the candidate they like, they were voting for someone who could beat Bush. Exit polls showed that very few of the people who selected Kerry actually liked him. They just voted for him because he was the strongest ABB (Anyone But Bush) candidate they could find.

Kerry won, not by convincing the voters that he would be a good president, but by convincing them that he could win the election. They didn't care what came next. They figured that it had to be better.

So now Kerry is running against Bush. He already has as much of the ABB vote as he will get. He's pushed his Viet Nam service too hard. He covered up his protest days and his Senate record. What's left?

The new Clinton people say to run on the economy. It worked for Bill. This is great strategy for a governor with a booming state economy behind him but a loser for a Senator who never introduced any jobs bills. Kerry is trying with his "We can do better" mantra but his heart isn't in it.

He really wants to attack Bush on Iraq. Dean or Clarke could have done this but Kerry has muddied the water too much. Not only has he made conflicting votes but he also admitted that he would have fought the same war except it would have been different, possibly a little more French.

Clinton was the Man From Hope who Understood Our Pain and would do for us what he did for Arkansas. Reagan promised to get government off our back and cut taxes.

Kerry will cut taxes (except for the rich), give health care to some of us, and talk to the French (in French). That's not much of a message.

Going negative will not help. You have to mix your own positives in with the negatives. Bush has a record behind him. Love him or hate him, you know where you stand. He can point to his achievements and say that Kerry will undo them.

Where does that leave Kerry? Surrounded by a half dozen new staffers plus all of the old ones, each with his own ideas about how the campaign should be run.

On top of that, he's hiding from t he press. His only appearance in the last month was on the Daily Show!

According to the Kerry campaign, retired Admiral Schachte changed his story about Kerry. Their proof is a government contract and a pair of $1,000 contributions that Schachte gave to Bush in 2000 and 2004.

So what are we to make of the upcoming 60 Minutes bit? Ben Barnes is going to be quoted as saying that he got Bush into the Guard in 1969. Barnes has raised more that $500,000 for the Kerry campaign, one of only 20 fund-raisers to manage this amount. Like Schachte, Barnes is a lobbyist who gets a lot of government contracts. Unlike Schachte, Barnes does not have 250+ Veit Nam veterans telling similar stories.

Also, Bush has released all of his service records. Kerry has not. Nor has he released his medical records or his wife's tax records.

Want to bet that Dan Rather glosses over Barnes' connections to the Kerry campaign as well as his shady past?

Maybe Kerry should add Rather to the campaign staff. He's done Democratic fundraisers before.

Bush has been polite about it and Kerry probably will never admit it, but we are not at war with terror, we are at war with militant Islam. There are no non-combatants in this war. Just look at the World Trade Center and the Russian school. There are no neutral countries. Just look at the French journalists taken hostage.

Our actions for the past several decades have given the impression that we are a hollow country with no resolve for a prolonged struggle. If Bush loses it will be seen as further proof. I doubt that the insurgents in Iraq think that Kerry has the guts for a protracted conflict. The message will be, if you poke the US, they will get stirred up for a while but nothing long-lasting will come of it. Then it will be safe to attack again.

That is what Vice President Cheney meant when he said that if America makes the wrong choice then the danger is that we will be hit again.

Edwards must know this but he wants to be president (some day) so he had to respond. Kerry has not given a response. Possibly he is out windsurfing again.

Ok, lots of people windsurf. Regular people. So why did Kerry get so much grief about it? Kennedy had his picture taken at the beach. He looked good - natural, relaxed. Nixon tried to do the same thing. He wore a suit and looked out of place.

This is Kerry. He thinks he's Kennedy but he's really Nixon. He's trying too hard. It doesn't look natural. It looks forced. He's over 60 but he keeps running around doing sports meant for the 16-30 crowd. The only people his age who do these things are the rich guys.

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