September 21, 2004

Susan Estrich and the Adlai Stevenson Syndrome

Mommy make the mean men stop!

Susan Estrich---a mere two weeks ago talking tough like some B-school professor talking about "going to the matresses" because, you see, he'd seen the Godfather once---throws in the towel.

Am I the only Democrat who doesn't quite get this National Guard business? Why are we wasting our time?

Good question, Suze. I've been wondering that myself. The person who has been pimping this meme is Terry McAuliffe, and it seems that it only makes one Democrat smile:

goofy hillary pic.jpeg

It's also a theme being aggressively pimped by Mikey Moore and the DU types, for reasons that escape me.

Why are they wasting their time? Beats me.

I'm no George Bush fan. I'm a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. I don't buy the toughness applied to the wrong war and all that. But for the life of me, I can't figure out what the National Guard and the privileged son has to do with it, or how it helps John Kerry out of his Swift Boat swamp.

It doesn't, that's the beauty of it. It's the same reason why all the paranoid delusionary theories imbided by the right during the Clinton years added up to electoral losses on the top of the ticket (although real success on the undercards).

But I think for the Democrats it's the engaging in a virulent indulgence of what I like to call the Adlai Stevenson Syndrome. In other words, Democrats like to think they are smarter than Republicans (and everyone else), and so therefore think that if Dubya is dumb, that he should be easy to beat. They'd almost rather lose than admit otherwise. It's kind of like the trap the Dauphin of France falls into in Henry V---how could he be beaten by that whoring drunk Prince Hal? That's why this whole CBS debacle should shape up to be the Democrats' Agincourt, where the magnificent charging armour of the aristocratic nobles of the press are slaughtered in the mud by a bunch of rude, coarse, yeoman bloggers with the longbows, clad only in their jammies.

For the time being, National Guard has become synonymous with the questions raised about the liberal media. Did CBS fall for a hoax, or did the right-wing conspiracy set up CBS? How could the conservative bloggers have known, even before CBS got off the air, about supposed inconsistencies in documents that were yet to be released publicly? CBS is down but not out. The problem is, it'll be fighting its battles until the next election cycle.

Yep, it's gotta be a conspiracy! And it was---a conspiracy involving CBS knowingly using fraudulent documents in collusion with the Democratic Party to influence a presidential election. Sorry about the "Rove Must Have Done It!" line, Suze, it's just not going to fly!

Meanwhile, how could this be any better for George Bush? The impact of a very bad story, albeit on a peripheral subject for him, is totally blocked.

Yep. He's won immunity on this one, against all the sorts of sleazy stuff that you were advocating in your editorial just two weeks ago (you remember, where you were holding out the hope of Larry Flynt and Kitty Kelley doing your dirty work for you?)

It's different for Bush than it is for Kerry. Bush wasn't running for re-election on the strength of his record in the National Guard. Did anyone ever think he was anything other than the privileged son of a rich Texan who did what he could to fly planes here and not risk his life in Vietnam? Did he ever deny it? Not that I heard.

I think I just heard the lightbulb click. The reason why the Swift Vets stuff hulled Kerry below the waterline was because it directly challenged the whole "reporting for duty" mantra. Band of Brothers, my arse. But the Guard stuff never registered against Bush for exactly the reasons she now realizes: he never pretended to be something that he's not. The Democrats aren't used to that, having been married to Bill for the past 12 years. The secret to Bush's success politically is that he knows who he is and does an excellent job of projecting that inner confidence. That's why he's beaten two liberal icons---Ann Richards (remember her?), and Prince Albert.

So how much does it matter if he did or didn't show up in Boston or Alabama, if there was or wasn't sugarcoating, or pressure, or missed flight checks? What do you get if you win? Does it really raise questions about Bush's competence to lead in the future, or only about CBS' competence to report?

That's the beauty of it: they get nothing except the story boomerangs back upon them. Unfortunate for them, yet completely predictable. Just ask former Presidents Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, and Steve Forbes---this sort of attack doesn't work.

And the story is not about CBS' incompetence, but its bias and fraud.

Bush is losing nothing in this comparison. He didn't run on his National Guard record. He wasn't trying to get anything from it, so he isn't losing anything. Big surprise: Did you know George Bush is a child of privilege? His record might have been sugar-coated, and now it turns out it wasn't.

John Kerry gets hit because he tried to meet the toughness test as a war hero. The Swift Boat Veterans called that into question. Even if they got their facts wrong, they challenged his claim to toughness. And then they became the media darlings, which earned them $32 million, and still counting.

Yeah, life's rough when you aren't scarfing at George Soros' trough. That's why the top 7 527s are all left leaning, and have together raised over $120,000,000.

And the Swift Vets have been successful because they haven't had their facts wrong, as the whole Christmas in Cambodia story became seared---SEARED---into our consciousness.

Terrible luck. Unfair. Should've seen it coming. Whatever. It is the past. Kerry has to move on.

Yep, it was, and this is why the front-loaded primary process plus the Little Lord Fauntleroy campaign finance/media hissy about "negative campaigning" damaged them. Edwards, or Lieberman, or Gephardt coulda/shoulda run with the equivalent of Swift Vet ads 4 + 5 in the primaries (the ones featuring Kerry's 1971 testimony and his Dick Cavett show interview about throwing away his medals). Kerry tried to be both the guy on the cover of Doug Brinkely's book--Mr. Reporting for Duty clean-cut war hero--all the while being the long haired punk testifying before the Senate in 71 about "Jenjisss Caaahn" and war crimes he may (or may not) have witnessed. You can't be both, and you can't have it both ways. The Democrats can blame it all they want on Karl Rove and Halliburton, but the truth of the matter is that there boy gone done screwed the pooch.

John Kerry might even be a worse candidate than Bob Dole, and that says a lot.

Enough with the war hero. Enough with having things both ways. The war is the measure of toughness. Not the war 30 years ago. This one. It's harder to make it simple. If you're that smart, you can do it. Raise the level of the debate by making it simpler.

For now, George Bush has managed to go from being the dumb president to the tough president, from the president depicted by Michael Moore to the president depicted in the Republican Convention. Democrats need to get off Vietnam and challenge him. Raise the stakes. Make the toughness real. One mistake. That's all it will take.

Here's why I think the Democrats are going to screw it up: they can't admit that Dubya is a smart pol and an effective campaigner. Its the Adlai Stevenson Syndrome again. Kerry did it today, going on the Regis show and joking about how Dubya wanted to have the debates allow for a "phone a friend" life-line. I was pumped when I heard that, because as we shift into debate mode, I thought for sure they had learned the lessons from last time and would begin talking up Bush's skill in debates. But they're not going to do it---they're going to do the same thing they did four years ago, and he's going to go in there and mop up the floor with Kerry.

Alas for the Democrats, the "One Mistake" Suze is hoping for is being committed by them: but I'm coming to the conlusion that the Democrats would rather lose the White House and the Congress than to admit that George Bush is smarter than they've given him credit for.

Aint Karl Rove a genius?

Posted by Steve at September 21, 2004 10:47 PM | TrackBack
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