September 25, 2004


The doomed defeatist: John Kerry is a loser and a bore and the only thing he is consistent about is his opposition to the projection of US power in America’s interests (Mark Steyn, 9/25/04, The Spectator)

Kerry has spent two months doing everything wrong, beginning with his choice of running mate. His Vietnam nostalgia-night ‘reporting for duty’ convention speech was described by yours truly in the Telegraph as ‘verbose, shapeless, platitudinous, complacent, ill-disciplined, arrogant and humourless’. But most observers seemed to think it was a stroke of genius, and attributed the unprecedented lack of a post-convention poll bounce to the fact that Kerry was so good and so ahead of the game he’d gotten his post-convention bounce before the convention. This is an example of a phenomenon I’ve noted for a couple of years: the principal effect of America’s so-called ‘liberal media bias’ is that the Democratic party and the pro-Democrat press sustain each other’s delusions.

It happened again a week after the convention. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began their anti-Kerry campaign. The senator’s people assured the media that the charges were all false, the media assured the senator’s people that nobody in the press was going to go near the story. Partly as a result of this insulation from reality, by the end of August the underfunded veterans had driven Kerry’s numbers down, extracted crucial retractions of many of his most celebrated war stories, and forced the candidate into hiding, unable to risk giving an interview even to sympathetic TV softballers.

Desperate for payback for his month of SwiftVet hell, the thin-skinned Kerry demanded that his campaign went on the attack about Bush’s fitful National Guard service back in the Vietnam era. Nobody cares. But Dan Rather and CBS did a big story on whether Bush failed to show up for a physical in the War of 1812, and the Kerry campaign promptly lost most of September because Dan’s case had been built on laughably fake memos supplied as part of a convoluted deal involving the network, a man of dubious mental stability and key Kerry campaign contacts including Joe Lockhart, the former Clinton press secretary who was brought on board to get Kerry out of last month’s mess, not land him in this month’s.

In normal circumstances, you’d send the vice-presidential nominee out to serve as your attack dog and savage your detractors. But because Kerry is aloof and cold, he chose a running mate to supply all the warmth and charm and feel-good fluffiness he himself lacks. Whatever John Edwards’s strengths, he’s no attack dog. While Dick Cheney went around the country snarling devastating cracks about Senator Flip-Flop, Edwards was reduced to pleading for Bush to call off the SwiftVet ads. He looked as though he was about to burst into tears.

There is an attack dog on the Kerry team. Unfortunately, it’s his wife, and folks don’t like that in a prospective First Lady. Teresa Heinz Kerry dismisses her husband’s critics as ‘idiots’ and ‘scumbags’, and Kerry’s new advisers seem eager to limit her visibility. I’ve lost count of the number of Democrat women who’ve said to me that they can’t stand her.

So that was the state of play in mid-September: a candidate in hiding, a lightweight running-mate way out of his league, and a motor-mouth wife duct-taped and tossed into the cellar.

Other than a bad candidate, a bad wife, a bad vp pick, a bad staff, and a bad strategy, this has been about as good a campaign as the Democrats could run at this point in their decline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 8:57 PM

Don't forget their bad luck of the election happening at a point in the business cycle when the economy is picking up again after the tech bubble and 9/11.

(I know, Bush's tax cuts helped, but partly it's just the economic cycle.)

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 25, 2004 9:12 PM

What cycle? We've had twenty years of uninterrupted growth.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2004 9:19 PM

Didn't we have minor recessions (or whatever a not-quite-recession is called) around '87, '92, and '01?

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 25, 2004 11:13 PM

At least Dewey had the good fortune to be tagged with a memorable line: the little man on the wedding cake.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 25, 2004 11:15 PM


The guys who officially designate them say maybe not.

Posted by: oj at September 26, 2004 12:06 AM

During that recession of 01, did low-income people purchased more or less cell-phones than they would have if there were not a recession?

Posted by: pchuck at September 26, 2004 12:37 PM

I think that few people could despise the Democratic Left more than I do, but I must admit that even I have been astonished by the ineptitude of the Kerry campaign. My most pro-Democrat acquaintances look embarrassed whenever Kerry's name is mentioned.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Kerry is really a plant by that evil genius Karl Rove to bring the Democratic Party to its knees . . .

Posted by: Josh Silverman at September 26, 2004 2:16 PM