Tuesday :: Sep 21, 2004
If anyone doubts the effectiveness of Kerry's speech at NYU yesterday in throwing the Bush administration for a loop, this Nick Confessore post lays it out rather nicely:
The Bush administration can't seem to decide on an angle of attack against John Kerry's very effective speech yesterday at New York University. As this article covering the president's response notes, President Bush claimed Kerry's plan is "exactly what we're currently doing." But campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt put out a statement yesterday claiming that "John Kerry's latest position on Iraq is to advocate retreat and defeat in the face of terror." So are we to believe that Bush's policy is to retreat in the face of terror?
Needless to say, Schmidt's is a completely false description of Kerry's proposed policy. But it says a lot about the nimbus of desparation, fear, and incompetence surrounding the White House's Iraq policy that, even as they put out floaters regarding a possible withdrawal of troops -- some version of which is, I think, inevitable and desired by most Iraq experts -- they can't resist the rhetorical cudgel that any rethinking of our policy whatsoever is tantamount to giving into terror. That mindset, driven by the administration's political need, is part and parcel of their failure to understand what's gone wrong. And we are all the worse for it.
Given the White House's vaunted reputation for staying ruthlessly "on message," the bewildered and haphazard response to Kerry's speech is all the more remarkable. I mean, they must have known that Kerry would eventually use the Iraq cudgel, right? The fact that Bush's spinmeisters still couldn't formulate an effective response indicates that either a) the Karl 'n' Karen show isn't as well-oiled as we've been led to believe, or b) the administration's Iraq policy is in such shambles (or nonexistent) that they simply don't know what to say.
Either way, it kinda makes you wish that Kerry and his surrogates had been pushing this line earlier in the campaign, ay?
P.S. As Atrios notes, the deft rapid response of Joe Lockhart (as well as Howard Wolfson) to the Bill Burkett fiasco is truly a marvel, particularly in comparison with the Cahill/Shrum "strategy" from last month. Yes folks, the adults are finally in charge at Kerry HQ, and not a minute too soon.