White House Launches Counterattack: Is This The Best They've Got?
Following up on a post from Mary earlier, the Bush/Cheney election effort has fired its opening salvo in its campaign this year, with Mr. Bush going on the attack yesterday by outlining themes and throwing zingers at his Democratic opponents to the National Governors’ Association. The initial media accounts portray an aggressive attack from Bush, but when you actually read the comments themselves, you come away wondering if this is the best they have against Kerry, and if so, why are they using it still eight months out from Election Day.
Casting himself as a candidate for the first time, Bush framed the election as a stark choice between "an America that leads the world with strength and confidence, or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger."
"The American people will decide between two visions of government: a government that encourages ownership and opportunity and responsibility -- or a government that takes your money and makes your choices," he said at the Washington Convention Center, at a $1,000-a-person fundraising reception for the Republican Governors Association. "The security and prosperity of America are at stake."
Bush made it clear that he will portray Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, as an unworthy successor as commander in chief of the war on terrorism. "If America shows weakness and uncertainty, the world will drift toward tragedy," he said. "That will not happen on my watch."
Kerry should point out that there is every indication that we did in fact drift towards tragedy and weakness in the summer of 2001 when Bush ignored warnings about Al Qaeda and allowed Osama to finalize his plans unimpeded by the FBI.
Bush, saying he looks forward to a spirited campaign, spent much of the speech defending and boasting about what he called "a record of historic achievement." He promised to "win our second term."
Historic achievement? Let Kerry and Edwards summarize over the coming weeks exactly the depth of that historic achievement: the worst job creation record in decades, the worst deficits in our history, the most uninsured in our history, an underfunded education system headed by a joking lunatic Secretary, an environment overseen by corporate lobbyists willing to pollute for profits, a foreign policy record of failure and arrogance. This sorry record goes on while the Administration makes claims about its tax cuts that even the IRS disputes, and budget projections of dubious accuracy.
The list could go on and on, but if Bush wants to call that “historic achievement” then Kerry and Edwards should hammer him on that. And if Bush really wants to say that Kerry is an unworthy successor as Commander in Chief because he is allegedly weak and uncertain, Kerry can respond that his experience stems from actually fighting combat instead of avoiding it.
At least the White House joke writers are warmed up already.
Bush, in his most partisan and confrontational speech since the midterm elections of 2002, made one specific allusion to Kerry that he cloaked in humor. "The other party's nomination battle is still playing out," he said. "The candidates are an interesting group, with diverse opinions: for tax cuts and against them; for NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and against NAFTA; for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act; in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."
Actually, that’s a good one. But if Bush wants to make this a campaign about his leadership and an America that is the leader of the world, Kerry and Edwards should point out that the world by and large despises us, not respects us; international alliances to fight terror have crumbled under Bush’s watch, international agreements have been broken not strengthened under Bush’s watch. And Kerry and Edwards should point out exactly where Bush has “led” us in these last four years.
Kerry is already on the right track here when he responds that Bush is taking this line because he has nothing of substance to run on.
"I think George Bush is on the run, and I think he's on the run because he doesn't have a record to run on," Kerry told reporters after two campaign appearances here.
Kerry, who campaigned in New York's Harlem and later in Queens, said that under Bush, the nation has lost 3 million jobs, several million more Americans have lost health insurance, and the country is no safer from terrorist threats. "That's the truth of what is happening," he said. "Tonight, you'll hear words. Today, Americans are living the truth."
The benefit to Bush feeling the heat and having to enter the race with both feet this early is that Kerry gets to see what the White House plans to use against him now, instead of months from now. Sure, the poll numbers will slip as Kerry figures out effective ways to respond to the charges. But this assumes that the public will hold it against Kerry that he voted against weapons systems twenty years ago, a decade removed from fighting in combat himself, while signs abound just today that some weapons systems should in fact have been killed years ago. At the time of those votes, Bush was still chasing booze and using other people’s money on dry wells in Texas, so at some point Kerry should be ready to remind voters of each of their totality of life experiences. Sure, Bush has already made an issue of Kerry’s votes against the first Iraq war, but he can then remind voters that at the time of those votes, Bush was engaging in insider trading at Harken and getting shady financing from the Saudis. Let the voters pick who is the most sober leader here.
Let the White House come out with both barrels early against Kerry. From what I’ve seen so far, if this is the best they’ve got, then I’m sleeping easier already.