The Globe Brings the Goods
Via Political Wire, here's an article in today's Boston Globe offering an exhaustive synopsis of the Kerry campaign's trials and tribulations between the end of the Democratic primaries and the election. Thematically, it's fairly similar to Ryan Lizza's "'recriminations" article in the New Republic from last week. The Globe piece, however, contains less catty backbiting by anonymous Kerry staffers, and instead offers a sober recap of the last nine months. Interestingly, it also offers behind-the-scenes insights into the Bush campaign's strategy, which we haven''t been privy to. Anyway, here's a couple of passages that caught my eye:
Bush had learned in his only losing campaign -- a 1978 US House race in West Texas, where he was labeled a liberal Eastern elitist -- that it was political death to let your opponents define you first. So in the ensuing years he had turned that same strategy against his foes. In the case of Kerry, Bush readily agreed to a plan to define the senator as a flip-flopper weak on defense.
"His only losing campaign"...unbelievable.
[I]n mid-June, Begala met with campaign manager Cahill at Kerry's campaign headquarters in Washington and said he had changed his mind; he would quit CNN and join Kerry.
The reaction was not what he anticipated. What are you talking about? Cahill asked, according to Begala.
"It seems obvious you don't have a message or strategy-driven campaign," Begala said he replied.
Again, Cahill asked what Begala was talking about. Begala remembers that she looked "like I was going to perform open-heart surgery on her. She said: 'I need to think about this. Give me a couple of days to set that up.' From that day to now, I never heard another word from her. And you know, I was pretty angry. I'm still pretty angry."
It's easy to second-guess in hindsight, but if Mary Beth hadn't blown off Begala, and in fact brought him on board, the Kerry team would likely have been much more aggressive in August once the Swifties struck. But this is just coulda woulda shoulda, right?
In the White House, meanwhile, Bush resisted practice sessions. His debate preparations were marred by irritation and distraction, advisers said. Bush engaged in at least two miserable sessions with his sparring partner, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Aides did not even force Bush to watch the sessions that went badly, because "everybody knew" they had not gone well, one adviser said. Finally, frustrated by the intrusions at the White House, senior aide Karen Hughes moved the practice to Bush's ranch at Crawford, Texas.
There you have the essential "character" of our Dear Leader: insolent, stubborn, and hostile to any type of criticism. If there's any justice in this world (not to mention a savvier opposing campaign), Bush's meltdown during the first debate should have cost him the election. Feh.
Anyway, the Globe article contains plenty more insights into the campaign. It's definitely worth a read.