Tuesday :: Apr 22, 2003

Bush Will Use 9/11 As His Sole Re-election Issue


by Steve

Thanks to this illuminating story in today’s New York Times, we have confirmation of several things about President Bush’s re-election plans. First, Karl Rove will run this campaign almost solely on the issue of national security/terrorism. Second, the GOP will cravenly and explicitly use the 9/11 catastrophe as a partisan issue for the re-election. Frankly, this is because they have no other domestic accomplishments or agenda to run on and need to maintain a wartime, constant state of fear as their one and only sales pitch.

And third, by postponing the GOP convention until the end of August, the GOP can use the approximate $75 million in public funds for the general election campaign over a shorter period of time than the Democratic nominee, who will be selected almost a month earlier at the end of July. The Times states that Bush plans to replay the Clinton strategy of 95-96 by bombarding the airwaves with commercials over the spring and summer, at a time when the Democrats will be killing each other in a brutal series of primaries.

Knowing this, what can the Democrats do? Aside from doing whatever they can to winnow down the field as early as possible, the Democrats need to adopt Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment of politics: thou shalt not speak ill of another party member. The Democratic pack must steer their fire at Bush, and not at each other, so that they don’t wound each other and help Rove in the fall. Will they do it? Given some of the comments from Dean about Kerry already, this is not likely.

You can tell from some of the quotes at the end of the Times’ piece that the Bushies are ready to smear Kerry as another Massachusetts liberal. If that is the best they can do (and say that he looks French; ho-hum), then Kerry may do fine. They also don’t seem to be to concerned about Edwards and are ready to hang his looks and trial lawyer friends around his neck. As I said last week, Democrats can return fire quite well on this charge through the “trial lawyers or HMOs” line of attack, and by pointing out the hypocrisy in the GOP’s support of corporations’ use of “sue and settle” litigation to overturn environmental laws. The GOP does not feel that having Edwards at the top of the ticket will hurt them in the South, but the GOP is silent about Graham on that same point. And Graham has already made a positive impact in New Hampshire.

There are several ways the Democrats can shake up the GOP’s electoral and financing plans. First, it will be critical not to repeat the mistakes of the 2002 midterms and go silent in the days leading up to the GOP convention. The party, through its surrogates if necessary, must wallpaper the airwaves with TV nationally and in each critical state setting the negatives on Bush, his do-nothing record on domestic policy, his record on lost jobs and the deficits, his record on broken campaign promises and underfunded commitments. And yes, voters must be told that they are about to witness a national GOP convention that will try and take political advantage of the 9/11 tragedy so that by the time of the actual convention at the end of August they will see the Rove-orchestrated hero-worshipping in a different light than the one Rove intended.

Second, of all the Democratic candidates, the one most able to reject public financing and spend whatever is necessary to compete from the convention onward is John Kerry. With an AFL-CIO political operation and full use of the issue advocacy and state parties allowed by McCain-Feingold, a self-financed Kerry campaign willing to spend upwards of $125 million between July and November could force Bush to reject public financing as well, but this would occur after Bush would have spent $200 million of Corporate American money in the Spring. Such a move would lead to tensions with the GOP House and Senate campaign committees, who would see that Bush needs to continue vacuuming up all the contributions for himself in a now self-financed Fall campaign. Under this scenario, Corporate America would find George W. Bush to be an expensive whore in 2004.

And the other move that would upset Rove’s electoral mapping would be to get Bob Graham on the ticket, which would put not only Florida but other southern states in play. Graham is also not a pauper, by the way, and has some of his own money to put in if necessary.

Yes, the GOP is both craven and clever. But Democrats can be clever also.

Steve :: 12:55 AM :: Comments (21) :: Digg It!