September 14, 2004

Holy crap!

An important rule of media dynamics is when an attack on a candidate fails (as the Bush/AWOL story has, spectacularly), then there is an almost inevitable reaction against the other candidate on the same general issue: if he's clean as a whistle, fine, but if there's any potential of a story, watch out. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But it's the media's version of the law of thermodynamics calling for every action to have an equal and opposite reaction.

We wrote about this back on February 24th:

The second mistake was his "How dare you talk about Vietnam" letter of yesterday. I think this is why reports that his campaign was less than pleased with Terry MacAuliffe's playing of the Bush National Guard card so early make sense: the story raged for a week, but then burned out for lack of, well, substance. However, stories like that never just die--they tend to then rebound and lash back at the other side. In this case, it's not Kerry's service in country that's the problem, but rather what he did when he got home with the "Junkie Vets," as many referred to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Kerry needed to get his image and perceptions set with the public before the story inevitably turned to the early 1970s, which he then could distance himself from. Instead, he now has to address this issue as most of the general public is getting their first full look at him. So which is he--the saluting guy with the medals in his ads, or the long haired guy throwing his medals over a fence? The problem is for Kerry that he's both: and this whole point of Kerry's having it both ways is the opening move that the Republicans are going to make on him. Worse, he's got himself in a classic two-front bind--by opening up on Bush and Vietnam, his party's leaders in effect kicked off the general election campaign before Kerry had sewed up the nomination. Terry Mac "misunderestimated" Dubya once again: they thought if they opened up on Bush and the Guard, that he wouldn't respond, at least until later. It's insane in politics to make such an assumption--they should only have raised the Guard issue if they had the proof of their charges. Instead, they've accidentally started the general election, but in a way that's going to hurt Kerry. John Edwards doesn't have to go negative on Kerry: Dubya's folks are going to do that for him. The last element to this is that letter's such as Kerry sent have the opposite effect: instead of focusing the issue back on Bush, they in effect call in the fire on Kerry himself. Kerry--if he becomes the nominee--might have to run not only against Dubya and Ralph Nader, but also against the haggard long haired John Kerry of 1971. And that's not the way to win 270 electoral votes.

Reviewing the story on April 27th, we said this:

That's why Terry Mac starting the general campaign boasting about John Kerry's "chestful of medals" and attacking Bush for being AWOL [without the proof to seal the deal] was politically insane.

As I said yesterday, it's almost as if Terry Mac wants Kerry to lose.

Oh, yeah, I forgot....

So, what does this mean? Say hello to more prime time coverage for the Swift Vets who, after establishing that John Kerry has lied for years about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968, and causing the Kerry campaign to concede the basic issues over the first purple heart, are now zeroing in on the Silver Star, as their charge that Kerry had written the after-action report are now confirmed.

I confess I misunderestimated this angle--I thought it was insanely foolish to pursue this story. Now, I'm having real doubts. If any of this sticks, Kerry's toast. And if it's true, there'll be no helping him.

Posted by Steve at September 14, 2004 10:30 AM | TrackBack

I doubt anything either side says will make a huge difference in the numbers. Both sides are desperately going after a handful of undecided votes. Most people already have their minds made up and the media could discover and air a video of either candidate killing babies and his supporters would still remain unshakably in his camp.

Posted by: Lynn S at September 14, 2004 12:28 PM
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