Memo To Kerry: Stop Talking About Responding, And Start Attacking Pre-Emptively
As I said on Friday, the time for Kerry to initiate a second-tier offense against Bush is now. Up until now, Kerry has resorted to saying that he will fight back, and that he is not Mike Dukakis. But saying it and shooting back when shot at by the RNC and White House is a lot less effective that pinning the White House to the wall and keeping them there on the defensive. The Sunday chatfests, including Timmy the Lapdog’s panel on MTP this morning, all seemed to agree that 1) the National Guard story may have run its course and the public doesn’t care, 2) Kerry is peaking too early, and 3) wait until Bush and that $200 million kicks in. None of them could of course for a moment concede that 1) the Guard story may continue for a while because nothing has been resolved and it speaks to the issue of Bush’s integrity; 2) instead of peaking too early, Kerry may be able to continually add a point or two each month against Bush because voters want someone new; and 3) an effective and lethal response to Bush attacks may require Bush to spend all that money just to maintain what level of support he has.
Kerry’s ability to pull this off however rests with initiating a second-tier offensive headed by a political killer now. As evidenced by this front-page story in the Times this morning, the White House is ready to come out swinging now. Within two weeks we are being told the Bush political team will start an offensive aimed at portraying Kerry as someone that says one thing and does another, and as someone who cuts defense and is against tax cuts.
Mr. Kerry, (Matthew Dowd) said, would be defined by the Bush campaign as "part of the Washington establishment that says one thing and does another," while Mr. Bush would be presented as a leader who does what he says he will do, even if not everyone agrees with it.
"Mike Dukakis was an outsider, and compared to John Kerry, Mike Dukakis is mainstream. Michael Dukakis was a governor who balanced a budget. I don't remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating defense cuts, and I don't remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating against cuts in taxes."
If Kerry had a political killer aboard running a second-tier campaign now, he would be able to show that Mr. Bush isn’t exactly Mr. True-To-His-Word himself (see Kyoto, aversion to nationbuilding, a humble foreign policy, “Leave No Child Behind”, for starters). And a political killer would be able to take the "he cut defense" attack, and contrast it with how Bush has treated veterans, how he sent soldiers into battle in Iraq without proper equipment and inadequate postwar planning. A real political killer would be able to show that Kerry from his experience knows more about national defense than a part-time Guardsman who didn’t even show up to meet his commitment. A real political killer would be able to take the White House claim that Kerry is against tax cuts and turn that around to show how maintaining tax cuts for the middle class but opposing them for the wealthy is a matter of fairness.
And a real political killer would be able to get this line of attack out there now before Bush gets off the blocks.
But unless Kerry gets a second-tier campaign going soon, the pundits will be right and Bush will be able to put Kerry on the defensive way too much. And then the $200 million will matter.