I can see we're going to have to set up some sort of "Democratic PR school" soon. They've become so accustomed to being George Bush's whipping posts they no longer recognize it when they have the advantage, and as the John Kerry incident demostrates they are in sore need of a few remedial lessons on how to press it when they do.
First of all — I don't care if John Kerry was eating live babies on TV, one week out from an election you do not repeat GOP talking points. Ever. It makes you look like a big wuss who can't stand up to the Republicans, even when they're playing from an exceptionally weak hand on an issue you own. For all those anxious to be seen as the tough defenders of national security, huddling in a crouch position while they pummel you about the head and bleating "yes, yes, we deserve this" does not have the best optics.
Secondly — did I mention that the Democrats own the issue of Iraq? Even the WSJ acknowledges it is the #1 factor influencing people's votes this election. If the Republicans want to bring it up, that's a perfect opportunity to pivot and attack:
- "John Kerry's inability to tell a joke probably should disqualify him from further appearances on Comedy Central, but I'm glad you brought up the topic of Iraq. What a Republican quagmire that is…"
- "John Kerry is a decorated war hero and I have no doubt that his comments were meant to denigrate George W. Bush, who dodged military service. Why else would Bush be abandoning American soldiers behind enemy lines? I don't think anyone who had ever served in combat would ever do that, and I think you should ask my opponent what (he/she) has to say about this."
- "I'm glad you asked that, Chris. I think the real insult here to our military is being delivered by George Bush and my opponent (fill in the blank), who simply will not admit that the Administration's policies in Iraq have failed. That's why I'm running, so we can stop wasting $250 million a day in Iraq and bring our soldiers home."
See? Pivot and attack. It's that easy. Bob Casey knows how to do it, and so does Ned Lamont. Jesus H. tapdancing Christ, it's not like there's a shortage of material, George Bush's JAR is in the gutter and nobody trusts him to run this war. Tie him to your opponent then kick him every time someone mentions the "I" word.
How difficult is that?
Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton seems to be taking her political cues from Rush Limbaugh at a wholly inopportune time. You expect Rush, who evaded military service thanks to a large boil on his butt, to defend fellow draft dodger George Bush by castigating Viet Nam war hero Kerry. But why does Hillary Clinton have to jump into the Sista Souljah business?
I can understand that people just want the whole subject to disappear from the stage a week out from the elections, but the Republicans and their compliant media (who seem to think a botched joke is more important than a botched war) aren't letting that happen. Anyway, the appropriate course of action for those wishing for it to fade away would be to simply change the subject, or at least STFU and not seize on it for personal political gain, but John Kerry did after all come out and criticize Holy Joe Lieberman so I suppose it was decided that he must (like Howard Dean before him) be punished by the powers that be within the party.
But the GOP was losing this battle, and in case anyone needed proof -- Tony Snow just went on The Factor and announced that John Kerry's apology was "sufficient."
Translation: "We polled the daylights out of this pig and we were getting hammered. We wanted people to hear 'Democrats hate our troops' and all they were hearing was 'Iraq is a friggin' mess.' But thanks to everyone who ignored that fact and gave us a leg up by spinning it for the GOP. We owe you one."
I know it's hard to be a woman running for President, but her husband triangulated the party right out of an identity in the 90s and we've been paying the price ever since. Can she please find a way to conduct her campaign without tearing apart the Democratic Party?
Jane Hamsher blogs regularly at firedoglake.com.