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September 20, 2004
The Slogan Drives The Policy

The Los Angeles Times reveals that the Kerry campaign has yet another theme for their campaign, after trying out several along the way, and that the new slogan helps to clarify Kerry's policy positions. Unfortunately, it may be too little, too late:

After months of struggling to find a theme to capture the essence of his candidacy, Sen. John F. Kerry has settled on one: The election, he says, boils down to a decision between four more years of "wrong choices" or a "new direction."

Since Labor Day, the Democratic presidential nominee has stuck to that theme relentlessly, using it to shape arguments on Iraq, the economy and nearly all other topics he broaches.

One problem Kerry has is that his vacillations make it appear that he could provide a whole range of choices on any topic, rather than pick the one in which he believes. On any given day, Kerry can deliver several new directions as well as a representative sample of old ones on Iraq, the economy, gun control, and every other issue on which he speaks.

Besides, a slogan should encapsulate a candidate's firm policy stands. Who builds their beliefs around a slogan? Only John Kerry.

To some Democrats unnerved by President Bush's recent surge in the polls, Kerry's adoption of a clearly defined theme to draw contrasts with the Republican incumbent offers a measure of hope. The question for Kerry is whether this new approach to framing the election comes too late to matter. ...

Earlier attempts by the Massachusetts senator at clarifying his message among his slogans were "Let America Be America Again" and "Stronger at Home, Respected in the World" had little effect, analysts say.

"You had a lot of mush," said Tim Hibbitts, an independent Oregon pollster.

No, the question is why Democrats take a "measure of hope" from the fact that John Kerry picked a slogan on Labor Day. It shows how bad this candidate has been that after six months as the nominee, he's still trying to develop a catchphrase for his speeches. Kerry's problem springs from the lack of coherence, which his revolving-door slogans aptly demonstrates. As James Carville might and should put it, "It's not the slogan, stupid."

Kerry had several opportunities to make hard decisions on what policies he would propose and promote, up to the Democratic convention. Instead, he turned that into a Viet Nam festival and almost entirely avoided talking about issues. When he went back on the stump, he continued the same vacillations that bogged him down in the spring and summer, famously saying that he would have voted for military action in Iraq even if he knew there were no WMD -- and then spending the next month backpedaling from it. Even his friend Don Imus went on a search-and-rescue mission for a coherent Kerry policy on Iraq and came up empty.

Perhaps this is the final version of the Kerry slogan; perhaps we'll continue to get the Slogan Of The Month. But the one certainty is that with Kerry, slogans are all we're going to get.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 20, 2004 6:10 AM

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