Everybody's got advice for John Kerry these days.
Running for president must be easy, since every channel-surfing hack is now an expert.
The man who steamrollered his way through the primaries is now being portrayed as a clueless player with the collective ability of the 1962 Mets.
If he'd just listen to the media cacophony, he'd know exactly what to do:
Attack Bush more. Or, stop worrying about attacking Bush and start defining yourself.
Become more likable. Or at least learn to smile once in a while.
But make yourself plausible as a wartime commander-in-chief amid the grinning.
Muzzle Teresa. Or play her up, since she's your best asset.
Don't come off as a rich guy from Yale, even though you're running against another rich guy from Yale.
Stop sounding like a Roman orator when you talk to people. Oh, and be authentic.
Pick a running mate soon so he can take the low road against Bush. Or take your time and make sure you get the right person.
Go for someone who'll definitely bring you a swing state. Or forget about geography and tap someone who'll bring some much-needed pizzazz to the ticket.
But not too much pizzazz, because then he might overshadow you while you're still working on becoming more exciting.
Oh, and don't crash the bike again.
No wonder Mickey Kaus | http://slate.msn.com/id/2099544/ has started a "Dem Panic Watch."
John Fund | http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110005030 is practically crowing on OpinionJournal:
"It's six months until the election, and Democrats are already having buyer's remorse. The Bush campaign 'is kicking Kerry's [butt] every damn day,' one prominent Democratic operative told the Washington Post last week. 'Kerry hasn't owned one day in the news yet. Not one day!'
"Some liberals are so frantic that they want to pull the plug. Village Voice columnist James Ridgeway says prominent Democrats should 'sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike' and withdraw. Call that the Torricelli option, after the former New Jersey senator who was muscled out of the race by party elders.
"That's not going to happen. First, John Forbes Kerry has wanted to be president ever since he hung around the Kennedy family compound as a teenager. He's not going to let any of the same pooh-bahs who only last December wrote him off as a primary contender drive him from the race now. Second, Mr. Kerry's convention delegates are loyal to him and not easily transferable. There was similar grumbling about dumping Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992 when he was running third in polls behind both George Bush and Ross Perot. Nothing came of it.
"But that doesn't mean that the worries about John Kerry's electability are going away. Time magazine columnist Joe Klein says Mr. Kerry is 'engulfed by the sort of people Howard Dean railed against: timid congressional Democratic staff members and some of the old Clinton crowd. ... Kerry's may be the most sclerotic presidential campaign since Bob Dole's.' Ouch."
Kerry's response yesterday was to launch a new ad blitz. Here's a roundup, beginning with the piece I coauthored (I rent this space, after all):
"Faced with mounting evidence that voters do not know much about him, Sen. John F. Kerry launched two new biographical ads yesterday, including testimonials from his wife, daughter and Vietnam crewmates, in a $25 million roll of the dice that aides described as unprecedented for a challenger.
" 'We really have just begun to introduce him,' said Kerry strategist Tad Devine, explaining why the campaign is investing so heavily in publicizing such oft-repeated facts as Kerry's decorated service in Vietnam. The 60-second spots, touting "a lifetime of service and strength," will air on national cable channels and in 19 contested states -- expanded to include Louisiana and Colorado.
"The commercials are designed in part to counter a $60 million advertising barrage by President Bush, much of which has depicted the Massachusetts Democrat as weak on defense and devoted to higher taxes. The dramatic highlight comes when one crewmate, Del Sandusky, says 'the decisions that he made saved our lives,' and the man whom Kerry rescued from a swift boat under fire, Jim Rassmann, says: 'When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.'
"Kerry aides describe the decision to spend $25 million on two spots -- which they call the most expensive advertising blitz in presidential campaign history -- as based on their research that most voters know little about the candidate's background or record. They say this is hardly unusual for a challenger at this stage and that even Al Gore, as an incumbent vice president, faced similar difficulties in the spring of 2000."
The Los Angeles Times: | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-050304kerry_lat,1,1497052.story?coll=la-home-headlines
"The ads make no mention of President Bush. But they offer an implicit contrast to the Republican incumbent by mentioning their common alma mater, Yale University, and highlighting the path Kerry pursued after graduation that took him into the jungles of Vietnam. Bush stayed in the United States and became an Air National Guard pilot...
"The size of the ad buy -- spanning broadcast stations in 19 states and national cable channels -- underscored the dividends Kerry is reaping by his decision to bypass public financing during the primary campaign. Had he taken public money, he would already have reached a limit on spending that would have tied his hands until the Democratic National Convention in July."
The Chicago Tribune: | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0405040210may04,1,479389.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
"Six months before the general election, Kerry and Bush are engaged in an unusually personal debate about their military service and who is better able to keep the U.S. safe from terrorist attacks and other threats. In his biographical ads, Kerry only mentions his own service, but the difference between his and that of Bush is made clear through grainy images of his wartime service and testimonials from two Navy crewmen."
The New York Times | http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/04/politics/campaign/04KERR.html?hp on Kerry citing his work with McCain:
"Mr. Kerry's use of Mr. McCain's image came without his permission, though a campaign aide contacted the Arizona senator's office on Monday morning to inform him, said Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for Mr. McCain....'A plethora of presidential candidates have mentioned Senator McCain over the past year,' Mr. Wittmann said, alluding to Democrats like Senator Joseph I. Lieberman who invoked Mr. McCain's name in the primaries. Mr. Wittmann added: 'The Kerry ad is factually correct, and who knows? Perhaps the Bush campaign will highlight Senator McCain's work with the president as well.'"
The president, meanwhile, was hitting the road:
"President Bush embarked yesterday on a campaign bus tour, trying to woo voters in Michigan and Ohio, where polls show him in a dead heat with Democratic Sen. John Kerry," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
"The eight-stop swing is Bush's most overt campaign effort since his mid-February stop at the Daytona 500 stock-car race.
"Gone were the regular trappings of a traveling president. Instead of a bulletproof limo leading a stream of black vehicles, Bush boarded a red, white and mostly blue bus in South Bend, Ind., that headed an eight-bus caravan. The 'Bush-Cheney 2004' logo adorned the front of his bus, and the slogan 'Yes, America Can' graced its rear...
"Bush gave the Massachusetts senator a rhetorical poke, chiding Kerry for giving conflicting answers on whether he owned a sport-utility vehicle.
"'He said he owned a couple of minivans and a big Suburban,' Bush said, but then on Earth Day, Kerry said that his family, and not he, owned an SUV. It was the latest example of the Republicans' efforts to portray Kerry as a flip-flopping double-talker."
The Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/bush/articles/2004/05/04/bush_invokes_image_of_torture_cells/ has a very different lead:
"As the U.S. military continued to reel from photographs of troops abusing Iraqi prisoners, President Bush volunteered yesterday that Iraq is better off now that Saddam Hussein is gone and his 'torture cells are closed,' summoning an image that has haunted troops in recent days.
'Because we acted, torture rooms are closed, rape rooms no longer exist,' Bush said at a rally in Niles, Mich., just north of the Indiana border. The remarks have long been part of his stump speech, but were made just hours after he had discussed investigations into the alleged torture of Iraqis by U.S. troops with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Later, at a stop in Kalamazoo, he again said that 'the torture chambers in Iraq are closed.'"
Politics is getting even more expensive than you thought, says the Los Angeles Times: | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-na-money4may04,1,6664082.story?coll=la-home-headlines
"This year's presidential race -- fueled by more than a million donors, including many who have never given before -- is well on its way to becoming the country's first $1-billion political campaign, experts say. The money is coming in small donations and large ones, online and in the mail, from wealthy philanthropists and immigrants who can't even vote. In part, it represents unprecedented interest in the campaign from people throughout the country. Together, President Bush and his presumptive challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry, have drawn money from 700,000 more individual donors than those who contributed to Bush and Democrat Al Gore in the entire 2000 campaign, according to figures provided to The Times by the three campaigns. Already, donations to Bush, Kerry and the Democrats who had contested the Massachusetts senator for the party's nomination have exceeded more than $400 million -- more than double what was raised at this point four years ago."
Kevin Drum, | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ who's on a blogging roll, admits that it's not the economy, stupid:
"We liberals would like to think that the election is going to turn (or can be made to turn) on the state of the economy, or perhaps on favored social issues like education or healthcare. This is dreamland. The economy is going to do whatever the economy does, and right now it looks like it will be bad enough that Kerry has a chance to win but good enough that it won't hurt Bush too badly. Relying on that to win the election would be foolish.
"Whether we like it or not, this just isn't the year for social issues to take center stage. The president has far more ability to control the agenda than the challenger, and Bush's campaign message is already clear: the world is a dangerous place and John Kerry can't be trusted to keep you safe.
"This is not to say that the economy and social issues won't play a role. Of course they will, and Kerry should take advantage of his strengths in these areas. But the key issue is going to be terrorism and -- especially -- the war in Iraq. I think liberals need to face up to this squarely even if we don't like it.
"Survey results for the past several months have been clear: Bush's approval ratings for handling the war have gone down, people increasingly believe it was a mistake to invade Iraq, and sentiment is moving in the direction of bringing the troops home. But this hasn't helped Kerry. It does give him an opening, but by itself it's not enough for people to have doubts about Bush; they also have to believe that Kerry is likely to do a better job."
Fred Barnes | tp://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/049wjydu.asp attacks Kerry's defense to Bush's attacks:
"A staple of Democratic rhetoric these days is the charge that a "Republican attack machine" is smearing John Kerry. Is it really true that Republicans are impugning Kerry's military service in Vietnam and questioning his patriotism? Seeking an answer, my colleague at Fox News, Morton Kondracke, asked the Democratic National Committee to supply evidence of Republican mudslinging. Send me the worst of the smears by the Republican National Committee or President Bush's reelection campaign, Kondracke said.
"What the DNC produced didn't come close to substantiating the charge of smears about Kerry's military record or patriotism. The Democratic committee couldn't cite anyone from the RNC or the Bush campaign--or the White House for that matter--who had criticized Kerry for his service in Vietnam or raised doubts about his patriotism. For the most part, what the DNC called smears were attacks on Kerry's antiwar activity after he left the Navy."
The National Review's Rich Lowry | http://nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry200404300833.asp continues his campaign to brand Kerry a fraud:
"Back in February 1992, John Kerry stood up on the Senate floor, 'driven by personal reasons of necessity.' He professed to be saddened by then-Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey's criticism during the Democratic primaries of Bill Clinton's lack of service in Vietnam. 'We do not need to divide America over who served and how,' Kerry said. 'I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways.'
"Kerry's 'personal reasons of necessity' always have to do with what is personally necessary to serve his ambition at any given moment. And whenever he says, 'I have personally always believed [fill in the blank],' it is likely: 1) he doesn't believe it; 2) he either didn't believe it at some time prior, or is about to stop believing in it. So it is with his deep, personal belief about making Vietnam service, or lack thereof, strictly off-limits.
"When Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe attacked President Bush's National Guard service earlier this year, Kerry insisted: 'I have asked surrogates not to. In fact, when I have heard of a surrogate doing that I have said please don't, it is not an issue to me, and I have never made an issue, in the course of my entire career, out of what choices anybody made about where they served or didn't serve.'
"This is what Al Franken would refer to as a 'lie.' "
But Kerry raised the issue while defending himself on the GOP-fueled medals/ribbons charge.
Josh Marshall | http://talkingpointsmemo.com says it's time for Bush to do something dramatic:
"Either the president knows the situation is that bad or he (and perhaps his advisors too) is just too out of touch to have any idea what's happening. Increasingly, I think that the president is just too small-minded and vainglorious a man to come to grips with the situation.
"A strong president, a good president, would put his country before his pride and throw himself into saving the situation even if it meant admitting previous mistakes and ditching past policies and advisors. But I don't think this president has the character to do that.
"Making a clean sweep, firing some of his most compromised advisors, admitting some past mistakes -- not for effect, but so that those mistakes could be more thoroughly and rapidly overcome -- might well doom the president politically. But I doubt there's any question they'd be in the best interests of the country.
"This president seems either disinclined to or unable to do more than preside over a drift into disaster while putting on a game face."