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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Desperate Acts of a Desperate Man

For the second time in a row, I'm going to quote cnn.com. Although there are better, more reliable, and more in-depth news sites, for those of us watching Kerry, it's an important one. That's where most Americans go to get their news (as cnn is fond of pointing out). If you want to know the headlines that Americans are reading, you'll find them there. The news for us Kerry fans is not good. Not good at all. Here are just some of yesterday's headlines:

For Kerry:
Kerry focusing on Bush record
Kerry rips Bush on jobs
Kerry blasts Bush "excuse presidency"

And for Bush:
Bush pushing health care message
Bush taking health care message to Minnesota

See the difference? Now, you might say that it's the result of some Bush bias within CNN, and you might be right. After all, even in his speeches where he's "pushing his health care message" Bush is also ripping and blasting Kerry. But that's not the point.

The point is this: the Kerry Campaign has gone negative. VERY negative. And while that might work for the Republicans, it's not going to work for the Democrats, mostly because Republicans are better at it.

You see, Bush embeds his barbs in his speeches, using them as a contrast to his own policies. The Kerry team, lately, has been constructing whole speeches around Bush bashing. It might not seem like a big difference.

But it is. Here's an excerpt from a Bush speech:

"I don't think you can be pro-doctor, pro-patient, pro-hospital, and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. See, I think you have to choose. My opponent made his choice. He put him on the ticket. I made my choice: I'm standing with the docs and patients. I am for medical liability reform now."

"I think; I made my choice; I'm standing; I am for . . ."

And here's how a recent Kerry speech was portrayed in the Detroit Free Press (www.freep.com) yesterday:

In some of his harshest economic attacks of the campaign, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told a Detroit audience Wednesday that President George W. Bush has overseen an "excuse presidency" that accepts no blame for decisions Kerry said have led to a loss of nearly 1 million jobs, higher health care costs and a record government budget deficit.

"This president has created more excuses than jobs," Kerry said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. "His is the excuse presidency -- never wrong, never responsible, never to blame. He's blamed just about everyone else for his problems.
"President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops. It's where the blame begins. The president would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions."

"The president; His is; He blamed; President Bush's desk. . ."

Could Kerry please remind us some more that he's not the president? Could he please talk less about himself? Americans want to hear about Kerry. They want to what he believes and what he stands for. If Kerry doesn't tell them, Bush will do it for him: Massachusetts Liberal, Massachusetts Liberal, Massachusetts Liberal. (And why, by the way, aren't we hearing anything about how Kerry breaks the Massachusetts Liberal mold? He's pro small-business, pro free-trade, and has even shown willingness to give federal money to faith-based programs. The silence on this point is as distressing as it is deafening.)

So while it looks like Bush is touting his positions over a naive challenger, Kerry makes himself look vicious, without getting any of his beliefs in the soundbites. Both speeches are focusing on what Bush believes. All Bush, all the time from both candidates does not equal success for Kerry. Kerry needs to realize that he has already captured all those who will vote for him because he's not Bush. To grab those crucial undecideds, he needs to define himself against Bush, not continue to define Bush. His attacks allow the Republicans to say things like:

"John Kerry offered more pessimism about an economy that has created over 1.7 million jobs over the past year, and he rehashed old, tired ideas of higher taxes, of more regulation and of more government control of people's lives that his own advisers say will not work,"(Ken Mehlman, Bush campaign director).

Americans hate pessimism. July was Kerry's best month during the campaign so far. Why? Well, in July Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate. Edwards was bright and sunny and all over the T.V. for a week or two. Then, the Democratic Convention focused on John Kerry's character and message. Has anyone looked at the polls in Ohio lately? Bush is now leading by more than 10%. When Edwards was campaigning there, his "two Americas" rhetoric was exceedingly effective. Ohio was then in the Kerry column. The Governor of Michigan said this about Kerry's message:

"I don't understand why it's not getting through in Ohio, especially, because their experience is so similar to ours."

The answer is easy. In Ohio (a state I also know quite well-- I lived there for four years) Kerry's criticism comes off as pompousness. Edwards comes off as a humble man of the people (like Bush). Where have you gone John Edwards?

I don't mean to say that the Kerry campaign shouldn't criticize Bush, but Kerry is in a better position if he stays above all the negativity-- he does best when he acts like he's already the President, not the challenger. The attacks should come from Kerry campaign members, Democrats in congress, or Democratic pundits.

If Kerry acts like a president, he has the best chance of becoming president.

*Note*: Today I saw some Kerry soundbites from speeches yesterday. His criticisms were more Bush-esque. "I believe the President should tell the truth. . . etc." That's better. Still, we need to hear more about where Kerry stands on the issues. The message isn't getting through.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well thought out and written piece. At my office, we have had much the same conversation. There is some differences between us as some of us are pro-Bush and some of us are anti-Bush, but we all agree that Kerry's campaign is very confusing and disappointing.


9/17/2004 07:51:00 PM  

Anonymous Blogger said...

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3/07/2015 10:47:00 AM  

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