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February 20, 2004
It's About Time

While I highly doubt that the Bush re-election campaign looks to this blog for advice, nonetheless they are acting as I urged yesterday, launching their advertising blitz against the presumptive nominee, John Kerry:

President Bush's reelection campaign has decided to focus its coming advertising barrage not only on John F. Kerry's record as a senator but also on his days as an antiwar activist, a House candidate and Massachusetts's lieutenant governor. ... Campaign officials said in interviews that they plan substantial positive advertising about the president, focused on his proposals rather than accomplishments, when they begin spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves next month. But they made it clear that many of the ads will accuse the Democratic front-runner of "hypocrisy," in McKinnon's word, in part by reaching back into his early career.

Quite frankly, I think they're a bit late. The Democrats have been using Bush for target practice since last fall, and the silence from the White House has to a large extent allowed the Democrats to frame the debate. As always happens when an incumbent president has no primary opposition, the spotlight falls on the candidates for the other party, and Howard Dean, John Edwards, and Kerry have sucked up a lot of the political oxygen in the past two months. This has put the White House on the continual defensive, having to explain why the Democratic attacks on Bush's policies and records are wrong, rather than leading the discussion by promoting those policies themselves.

And of course, everyone on the Democratic side has participated in the AWOL smear, from the party chairman on down, and none of them have repudiated these lies, even after extensive records and several eyewitnesses have destroyed this fallacy. Kerry's reportedly told his staff to no longer pursue that meme, hardly the same thing as acknowledging it was untruthful and wrong, which makes his campaign's whining yesterday all the more ridiculous:

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said: "These attacks and smears against us are just one more example of the fundamental need to change the direction of the nation from George Bush's extreme agenda to an agenda that meets the needs of mainstream America. And these attacks allow us to turn to real issues in response, which is precisely what the voters want to hear."

Sorry, Stephanie, but hearing the Democrats complain about smears after listening to them on the stump for the past month leaves one breathless from the hypocrisy. Besides, the Bush campaign intends to focus on Kerry's public record, which is certainly fair game for any campaign. Specific areas we can expect to see addressed are:

* A 1970 Harvard Crimson interview in which Kerry said that U.S. troops should be deployed "only at the directive of the United Nations"

* Kerry's high-profile opposition to the Vietnam War and comments about U.S. atrocities (accusing Vietnam veterans of widespread war crimes such as rape, mutilation, torture, and the "murder" of 200,000 Vietnamese a year)

* Kerry's record on tax increases and defense spending cuts -- especially his multiple attempts to cut intelligence funding in the 1990s

* Kerry's hypocritical sellouts to illegal campaign contributors, such as his legislative intervention on behalf of an insurer for the Big Dig, pressuring the SEC to meet with a Chinese spy, and the extraordinary letter-writing campaign Kerry waged to secure a $150 million defense contract for a donor who just pleaded guilty to election fraud

These issues provide just a springboard for the Bush campaign. They have about four months of Democratic vitriol to answer, as Matthew Dowd notes: "We have a job to do to correct the false impression given about us and the false impression about Kerry himself. This guy did 15 attack ads on us in the last few months." As they continue to mine Kerry's record in public office and public policy, we will no doubt discover much more about why Kerry gets a higher lifetime rating from liberal support groups than does Teddy Kennedy -- and the Bush campaign will finally start telling us why.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 20, 2004 5:53 AM

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