June 5, 2008


The Wrong Lessons from Swift-Boating (Steven Stark, 6/05/08, Real Clear Politics)

Kerry's real mistake -- and what allowed the charges to fester -- was that he made his three-decade-old war experience a key part of his campaign, even beginning his acceptance speech with the words, "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."

Once he did that, his Vietnam record became a central issue and fair game for critics. And once one gives that much amplitude to a series of personal events that happened 30 years earlier, and that others experienced too, one is inevitably going to be subject to conflicting accounts and faulty memories.

So it went for Kerry. Yes, the GOP poured fuel on the fire. But he lit the match himself -- a mistake John McCain is unlikely to make this time by making his war heroism a rhetorical centerpiece of his campaign.

Dukakis and Willie Horton were another matter entirely. Horton, Democratic partisans don't need reminding, was the Massachusetts convicted murderer let out on a weekend leave who didn't return and subsequently raped a woman in Maryland and attacked her fiancé. His story and the state's furlough program became the showpiece of a whole series of Republican ads that Democrats have been complaining about ever since.

Yes, the ads had racial overtones and, yes, Dukakis didn't really respond. But the real problem with the underlying story was a difficult one to counter under any circumstance: it was true.

...they're unanswerable because true. Similarly, the Democrat attacks are easily answered because true.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 5, 2008 10:53 AM

Is it apocryphal or was it ALGORE'S team who initially ran that ad (Horton) during the Dem primaries?

Posted by: ed at June 5, 2008 1:36 PM

Negative campaign attacks are usually the only truthful, relevant issues in a campaign.

The lies occur when they start promising what they will do if elected.

Posted by: h-man at June 5, 2008 1:46 PM

So what does one do to "prove" the loose, but real, connections that Obama has to Rezko, to Ouchi to Saddam?


that Obama has to Ayers, Dohrn, Khalidi to Hamas?

Is the idiot media so much in the the tank that they will attack the discussion of these issues as "Swiftboating."


Posted by: Bruno at June 5, 2008 2:50 PM

As is so often the case, Mark Steyn summed it up best and most hysterically:

"Well, if George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of the campaign of 2004, I have three words for him that I know he understands: Bring.... it.... on!"

John Kerry

"I Have Five More Words For George Bush -- Call.... Off.... Your.... On-Bringers!"

John Kerry, 30 days later

Posted by: Andrew X at June 5, 2008 3:28 PM

Now that I think about it, Hillary's mistake was that she didn't go negative enough despite Bill's valiant effort to sling mud.

Now her only option is assassination which I consider a "Hail Mary" tactic. (aahh with all due respect to Catholics of course)

Posted by: h-man at June 5, 2008 3:30 PM

Is the idiot media so much in the the tank that they will attack the discussion of these issues as "Swiftboating."

Everything about His Supreme Holiness The Magnificient Messiah Obama (pbuh) is off limits. Just using his middle initial is now proof that you are racist. (At least that's what the people who've given us eight years of Chimpy McBushitler, Shrub-In-Chief, are now saying.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 5, 2008 4:14 PM

They've proclaimed those issues 'answered' for so long, Bruno, but somehow they just don't go away. Yes, I look forward to Sen. Obama having to explain these again and again, going off prepared message to put out the fire that has flared up one more time.

It must suck like a Hoover to run for president of a country when your closest friends and associations hate that country and the bulk of its people - it kind of runs counter to the idea of 'patriotism', one of those unwritten requirements for the office.

Posted by: Mikey at June 5, 2008 5:02 PM

No Willie Horton ads were run by the GOP.

Posted by: erp at June 5, 2008 5:31 PM

ed, erp:

Al Gore's campaign raised the Willie Horton issue (the furloughs). They ran ads, but without Horton's picture.

The problem (and this is even more true in 2008) was that the Democratic Left didn't care about the issue, and then wailed like babies when the GOP ran ads with Horton's picture in the fall.

Just like Kerry, although no Democrat attacked him in the primaries for all his lies about his service (as if the primary voters would have cared).

And just like Max Cleland, whose votes to support unionization of the Homeland Security Dept. would probably be a badge of honor on the Left.

Obama shows no signs of learning, however - just today in Virginia, he attacked the British as unwilling allies in Iraq, and belittled their work in the war. Now if only the Republicans have the guts to run an ad in the fall, with a Tony Blair lookalike shaking his head as Obama's words fill the screen. "Is this the change Obama promises, insulting our allies and mocking American diplomacy?"

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 5, 2008 6:26 PM

h-man: Bite your tongue about that assassination.

How would you like to have Mrs B.J. as your vice- President, after all those mysterious Clinton-linked suicides and plane crashes and the like?

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 5, 2008 6:37 PM

Bad cronies are never an issue. Bad ideological soulmates always are.

Posted by: oj at June 5, 2008 8:27 PM

OJ -

That may be true today, but cronies hurt Truman while having bad soulmates didn't touch FDR.

Now, am I being silly, or did the author here imply that McCain is vulnerable to attack on his 'heroism'? Sure, the Dems have already started in on that (Jay Rockefeller, Tom Harkin, even Obama, tangentially), but I doubt if any such attacks will withstand even 2 minutes in the headlines.

Security and experience don't matter in the Democratic primaries, but in November the Democrats are going to have to win with a nominee who is even more detached than Clinton was in 1992. And people know about those 3:00 AM phone calls.

Posted by: ratbert at June 6, 2008 1:25 AM

All that mattered for FDR and Truman was the Depression and the War. Once they were over the Democrats ceased to be a viable national party again.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2008 7:40 AM

Meth addicts are largely non-"viable" citizens, but they can still do a helluva lot of damage.

Posted by: Andrew X at June 6, 2008 10:27 AM