Tuesday, September 14, 2004

What it boils down to
The Burden of Belief
I've declined commenting on the whole CBS memos flap because other bloggers far more knowledgeable than I have already done a more than sufficient job of doing so. Fred Barnes's piece in The Weekly Standard (link above) however, does an equally good job of boiling down to the obvious:
"To accept CBS's insistence the four documents from the early 1970s are authentic, you would have to believe the following:

  1. That the late Jerry Killian, Bush's commanding officer, typed the documents--though his wife says 'he wasn't a typist.'
  2. That Killian kept the documents in his personal files--though his family says he didn't keep files.
  3. That the disputed documents reflect his true (negative) feelings about Bush and a contemporaneous official document he wrote lauding Bush did not.
  4. That he typed the documents on a technically advanced typewriter, an IBM Selectric Composer--though that model has been tested and failed to produce an exact copy of the documents.
  5. That this advanced typewriter, which would have cost $15,000 or so in today's dollars, was used by the Texas National Guard and that Killian had gained the significant expertise needed to operate it.
  6. That Killian was under pressure to whitewash Bush's record from a general who had retired 18 months earlier.
  7. That Killian's superior, Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, was right when, sight unseen, he supposedly said the documents were authentic, but wrong when, having actually viewed the documents, he declared them fraudulent.
Now if you can't accept all that, there's another side. To believe the documents are forgeries, you have to believe this:
  1. The documents were typed recently using Microsoft Word, which produces documents that are exact copies of the CBS documents. [In case you don't believe this one, here is an illustration.]
  2. There is no number 2. All you have to believe is number 1."
I've decided to comment on this further, because it adds to a growing feeling I have in my gut: Kerry's campaign has begun damage control for their eventual loss. And I'm not alone in sensing this.

Glenn Reynolds said yesterday: "I take [Kerry's sudden fury over the Assault Weapons Ban's expiration, after his prolonged silence when something might actually have been done about it] as a sign that the Kerry campaign now expects to lose, and has shifted to a rally-the-base mode intended to protect downticket candidates. I could be wrong, of course, but that's how it looks to me."

He also points out that Al Gore's gloves have been removed: "Al Gore's stiff jokes are gone now, replaced by recount jokes. The cautious campaigner of 2000 is gone, too, replaced by a fire-breathing Bush basher."

You may remember that Gore endorsed Dean, the previous "fire-breathing Bush basher." Since Dean's surprise implosion in Iowa, the Kerry campaign has kept Gore quiet. Though he did speak at the July Convention, his rhetoric was noticeably calmer than what we heard from him in the primary months of the campaign. The screaming "He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure, dangerous to our troops -- an adventure that was pre-ordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place" (audio clip available here, the rant begins about 20 seconds in) disappeared for a while. But he's back; his tight leash has been released.

The fact of the matter is, from a strategic standpoint, this is not the way to win elections. The anti-Bushites, the people who do truly support "Anybody but Bush," who, as my friend Robby so aptly described in Friday's Yale Daily News, believe "that the seven horsemen of the Apocalypse will be arriving on Earth if President Bush is re-elected. And that they'll be serving in his cabinet" already support Kerry. They do not need to be stroked. Maybe, maybe, some of them need encouragement to vote, but they certainly don't need to be reminded of why -- they know. Gore's speech, though, does exactly what is not needed, trying to inspire fear of Bush. It's throwaway effort, that in the meantime scares people who don't feel so strongly anti-Bush away from the Dems. They may not vote for Bush, but they certainly won't vote for Kerry.

In closing, I leave you with this bit from Lileks. It's long, but bear me out, because it is precisely the problem I've predicted (over, and over, and over) for Kerry:
"Had another DNC canvasser the other night. Very young. She read from a piece of paper. She wanted my help to defeat Bush, and said that with only 55 days until the election it was clear that the Republicans would stop at nothing and we are out tonight to (squint, doublecheck word) encourage your support. Then she handed the board for me to sign.

'Why?' I asked.

She stared at me. 'Tell me why I should vote for John Kerry,' I said.

'I'm - new at this? And I-' she looked over her shoulder for the other canvasser. 'I had some paper, but I gave it away.'

'Tell me what you believe,' I said. 'Tell me what you feel in your head and heart about John Kerry.'

Whereupon she said that the War in Iraq was wrong and was 'killing all those innocent soldiers,' and someone the other day said that if we didn't elect him Bush would have another 9/11, but she didn't know who said it.

But tell me why I should vote for John Kerry,' I said. Gently, mind you. With a smile.

'I don't know,' she said.

I said I would think about it; I thanked her for her time and closed the door.

I mention this not to prove that DONKS ARE ALL IDIOTS because that's as boring as REPUGS ARE ALL CROOKS or whatever. Yes, everyone on the other side is evil. Noted. I bring this up because it's the third time the DNC has sent a canvasser to my neighborhood who's utterly lost as soon as she gets beyond a talking point. Which means nothing, perhaps; it's a safe district. Send out the newbies to learn on the job."


But that's exactly it: even the old guard have a hard time explaining why John Kerry is a strong candidate. Look at Bush's recent campaign speeches and you'll find that they're split about 50/50 between why he's a good candidate and why Kerry's a bad one. Then look at Kerry's, subtract the stuff about his Vietnam service, which doesn't count (fine, argue with me, but you know I'm right), and you'll find that relatively little of it is based on HIS merit. His platform, maybe; his party, a bit; he's not Bush, the majority. It's not a negative campaign in the traditional sense, but more accurately a campaign with a negative definition. You can't win a Presidential election because you're not the other guy -- it doesn't inspire people, it doesn't turn out the vote, and it doesn't win anyone from the other side or even the middle. It looks, to quote the President yesterday, like "the most tired, pathetic way to campaign for the presidency."

UPDATE [9/14/2004 - 23:16]: I've discovered via Political Wire that there's even more evidence of Kerry's implosion. Slate's political scorecard says that if the election were held today, Bush would win 307 to Kerry's 231. Once you've checked that out, head on over to the Electoral Vote Predictor. Start with yesterday, then move to today. You'll see that yesterday Kerry was up 269 to 233, and today, Bush is up 291 to 238. Additionally, in the "swing" state of Ohio, Bush is leading 52% to 42%.

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