Two things are making me feel like Kerry has figured out how to win. The first is this AP story.
Just as GOP efforts to question Kerry’s military record in Vietnam helped revive nagging questions about Bush’s service in the Air National Guard, the “flip flop” attacks on Kerry could boomerang against an incumbent running on his record and reputation as a straight talker.
If he is a flip-flopper, Kerry has company.
_In 2000, Bush argued against new military entanglements and nation building. He’s done both in Iraq.
_He opposed a Homeland Security Department, then embraced it.
_He opposed creation of an independent Sept. 11 commission, then supported it. He first refused to speak to its members, then agreed only if Vice President Dick Cheney (news – web sites) came with him.
_Bush argued for free trade, then imposed three-year tariffs on steel imports in 2002, only to withdraw them after 21 months.
_Last month, he said he doubted the war on terror could be won, then reversed himself to say it could and would.
_A week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said he wanted Osama bin Laden (news – web sites) “dead or alive.” But he told reporters six months later, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” He did not mention bin Laden in his hour-long convention acceptance speech.
“I’m a war president,” Bush told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 8. But in a July 20 speech in Iowa, he said: “Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president.”
Boom. By having top supporters (like Biden) push this line, Kerry is making it clear he wants to attack Bush’s “I’m a steady leader, and I never fuck up” strategy. I still think the best way of doing it would involve running footage of Bush’s dumb on-camera gaffes in TV ads, but this is a start. And so is this Time interview, in which he seems to have mastered, finally, the talking points jujitsu.
I will fight a more effective war on terror, and over the next weeks the American people will see the phoniness of the Bush efforts.
They haven’t done port security; they’re cutting cops; they haven’t taken assault weapons off the streets. Firehouses are opened in Iraq; they’re shut in the United States. Port security: 95% of our containers come in, and they are uninspected.
The fact is that these guys talk tough, but they haven’t done what is necessary to make America as safe as it can be. There have been more terrorist incidents around the world in the last months than any time in recent history. Whole parts of Iraq are under the control of terrorists, and they never were. Afghanistan is exporting drugs like opium like never before, and whole parts of the country are under the control of the Taliban and terrorists again.
Phony and unsafe: If Kerry paints Bush like that, he can neutralize his lead on national security/terrorism.
I think most observers missed the point of Kerry’s post-RNC speech. The substance wasn’t the chief lesson. The chief lesson was that Kerry is willing to take unthought-of tacks in campaigning and challenge Bush on everything he says, unlike Al Gore (pace SNL: “I uh-GREE with Governor Bush.”). This leads me to believe that when he finally shares a debate poduium with Bush, he’ll use his time to point out Bush’s failures and flip-flops and wait for the media to repeat them.