Kerry Finally Fights Back - Bush Lets Others Do His "Dirty Work" For Him
Finally, John Kerry shot back today directly at President Bush over the right wing smears surrounding Kerry’s war record. After not directly engaging for the better part of two weeks and letting MoveOn and other 527’s fire back at Swift Boat Veterans for (Un)Truth, Kerry threw the gauntlet down to Bush today in a speech to the International Association of Firefighters in Boston. And amazingly, Ron Fournier of the AP (who I trashed yesterday) covered the Kerry speech in a favorable way this morning.
Kerry finally said the obvious about modern political campaigning, and especially about the campaigns of George W. Bush. Kerry blasted Bush for letting front groups challenge his record on Vietnam and “do his dirty work for him” while Bush claims he isn’t attacking Kerry’s record but refuses to condemn the smears. It is a tactic that Bush has used all his political life, and he used it against John McCain in 2000. And the White House gave the same limp response to Kerry’s charges this morning, which points out why Kerry should hammer them on it.
Kerry’s speech this morning was blunt and direct, and pointed out that Bush owes answers to the American people about his sorry record on a variety of issues, all of which Bush is trying to ignore by having his front groups make an issue out of one of Kerry’s strengths: his military record as compared to Bush’s lack of one. But this is a typical Rove tactic: find a perceived weakness of Bush’s and a strength of your opponent, then find a way to hit early and aggressively on it to put the opponent on the defensive explaining themselves instead of hammering Bush for his weakness. It will work every time until the opponent goes on the attack himself forcefully and points out Bush’s weakness and Bush’s intention to change the subject away from the real issues.
Maybe Kerry has finally figured that out. Sure, the attacks will keep coming, even though the Washington Post undercut another of Kerry’s critics this morning and the Boston Globe did the same earlier in the week. We can now expect to see another distraction from these groups, like a call for the release of all of Kerry’s military records, which will be a lethal development for Bush and Rove. Why?
Because if these front groups for Bush make an issue of the completeness of Kerry’s military records, then it becomes fair game for Kerry and the media to ask again about the gaps in Bush’s records as well. If Bush’s supporters think that Kerry is unfit because he didn’t earn his medals, or because there are gaps in his records, or because he wasn’t in Cambodia on the dates he said he was eighteen years ago, and wrap this all in an argument about credibility, then why is it not hypocritical to support Bush blindly when he himself cannot does not have the records to account for his military service?
It would have been one thing for these anti-Kerry groups to just come out and say they were against Kerry for his antiwar comments and testimony after the war. That would have been legitimate, even though I disagree with their position. But because they don’t have the guts or the smarts to base their opposition on that slender and controversial reed, they instead went to Rovian character assassination by making an issue out of Kerry’s record. And when all the smoke has cleared, Kerry has a war record and Bush avoided one.