One of Bob Dole’s many yeeeagh moments in his long and cranky career was his surly reference to “Democrat wars” back around 1976, I think it was. (Yes, if anybody earned the right to resent the politicians who sent him to war, it is Bob Dole.)
Well, we finally have had a purely Republican war.
You say it was bipartisan? I like watching Republicans schiz out as they simultaneous revile Clinton and hide behind his skirts – “Clinton thought so too,” as they simultaneously impugn Kerry’s patriotism and point to the support of Democrats in the Senate for the resolution that authorized the use of force at the president’s sole discretion.
If I was advising Dean, I wouldn’t change his message one whit except I would ask him to stop verbalizing every posture (I said it first, he’s copying my message, at least we changed the party already), and I would also emphasize that is long past (two, three weeks past) the point where he should have started tacking sharply right.
If only Dean had begun focusing on his plan to beat Bush and ignored the slings and arrows (oh,and stop saying pincushion – it sounds too, uh, metrosexual – Brooks kindly suggested “punching bag” instead on McLehrer a few weeks back) instead of showing his by then well known fighter side in his rearguard action, if instead of taking out Gephardt he had simply settld for second to hm in Iowa and even second to Kerry in NH, then second the Edwards in SC, etc., so that the story would be Dean is everyone’s second choice…. If only. If wishes were horses, beggars would right, but Gephardt really did Kerry a solid, there, like a good blocker.
Kerry could still run left, more pro-union than Dean, etc., but they should really already both be trying to show their stake to the middle turf.
Since he’s been upfront the whole time, Dean should have problem diving sharply to Kerry’s right. Don’t attack Kerry. Don’t say 7 foot Dukakis or botox or whatever. Emphasize through contrast that Dean has staked out not kooky positions but commonsense positions based on truths that most politicians never dare admit. Dean has stomped on third rail after third rail. Salon described him today as a “dead candidate walking” but still he lives, he thrives. Mention the guns, the budgets, the honesty, the pragmatic effectiveness. “I really am a uniter, not a divider.” Point to bipartisan successes in Vermont.
Point to criticism from professional critics from the left and right. Appeal to the vast middle. It’s OK to write off the far right. In fact, it’s delusional not too. You don’t have to pick fights with those people.
Stop saying “I’m tired of being told what to do by fundamentalist preachers” although that horse is already out of the barn.
Criticize the war, but from the right, on the grounds of dishonesty, incompetence, and weakening of America’s command of its network of allied countries.
Personally, I think that character comparisons and manichean language only gets you so far. (Saying Kerry is like a Republican or as bad as a Republican is, by contrast with my avice, tacking left.)
I’d go for something more like this:
With all due respect to Senator Kerry, when he tells you he will cut taxes for you and reduce the deficit and fund health care and fight terror, we all know that that’s simply not true. Senators in safe states develop this unfortunate habit of pandering to their more extreme supporters. As I did in Vermont, I will first put the country’s fiscal house in order, and then work to ensure fairness and equity (as I did when – as in almost no other state in the U.S., I made sure that all the public schools in Vermont got the same level of support). I understand hunters, I have delivered healthcare reforms. George Bush is spending too much for what he’s taking in and I would fix that.
And, hey, maybe we should be calling Bush’s foreign policy establish neoliberals, not neoconservatives.
Update: How about this? “As the only doctor in this race, I am the most pro-life candidate.” I would pay to watch Dean debate Bush about matters of life and death.