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5/05/2004

Bush, in Ohio, Paints Kerry as Unreliable (washingtonpost.com)

Bush, in Ohio, Paints Kerry as Unreliable (washingtonpost.com)

Bush's Attacks on John Kerry:

  • "My opponent says he approves of bold action in the world, but only if other countries do not object," he said in Maumee early Tuesday, adding, "I'm all for united action, but I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other foreign countries."

  • "In order to keep the peace, there must be truth in the words of the president," Bush declared in Lebanon, the red, white and blue bus parked behind him as he began a discussion of attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Bush made the same point about Iraq, calling it "essential that when an American president speaks, he speak clearly and when he says something, means what he says."

  • For weeks, Bush has needled Kerry about his suggestion that he had met privately with foreign leaders who had endorsed him, and the incident has become a crowd-pleaser in presidential speeches. At several of his bus stops, Bush suggested that the claim calls Kerry's loyalties into question by citing with relish Kerry's explanation on NBC's "Meet the Press" last month that "you can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader."

    "I got a hunch this whole thing might be a case of mistaken identity," Bush said to laughter and applause. "Just because somebody has an accent and a nice suit and a good table at a fancy restaurant in New York doesn't make them a foreign leader. But whoever these mystery men are, they're not going to be deciding this election. The American people will be deciding this election."

  • Bush said Kerry's campaign promises add up to more than $1 trillion in new spending and said Kerry will raise taxes on all Americans to pay for those promises.


Much has already been said about the Bush-Cheney strategy to accuse Kerry of their own worst weaknesses. It is as though they have a list of candidate weaknesses (failure to provide resources to protect the troops - body armor and humvee up-armor; failure to keep down energy prices; running from the Vietnam war; profligate, undisciplined spending; and on and on),which they are working through, projecting onto Kerry. Most of the commentary on this phenomenon seems to ascribe two rationales to it. The first interpretation is that it is a shrewd Machiavellian ploy to undermine John Kerry's eventual offensive positions, to leave his post-convention guns shooting blanks. The media hesitates to cover "old" news, casual observers may simply assume that "all politicians do it," and the Republican base will be pre-conditioned to respond to attacks on Bush with criticism of Kerry.

The second interpretation is that Bush is constitutionally incapable of admitting mistake or weakness, and that he actually believes Kerry is sungularly guilty of the transgressions he is alleging. It is clear that Bush is in fact incapable of admitting error or regret. His showing in his most recent press conference is the most telling evidence, but everything from his ad-libbed remarks (shame on ?) to his shameless commandeering of his opponents' political successes, provides support for this position. Given this psychological fault, the first interpretation, whcih require preternatural awareness of one's faults, seems unlikely. Moreover, the first interpretation is incredibly risky, relying as it does on a compliant media, an ignorant audience, and a passive opponent.

The second interpretation has faults of its own. Even though the President has a pathological belief in his infallibility, his advisers, pollsters, donors, and focus groupers surely don't. Therefore, a third interpretation, which has been lurking: they just don't give a shit, are entirely poll-driven, and will do whatever it takes to destroy Kerry. They don't care about their own weaknesses, and haven't even spent any time reflecting on them. They are simply going to destroy Kerry's character, and rely on astroturf organization to win in November.

The tragedy, of course, is that the "flip-flopper" argument, which they think has traction, is buttressed by their strategy. They accuse Kerry now of being against funding the troops. In August, when troops are still dying, still suffering tragic brain injuries from under-armored humvees, John Kerry will say something about it. Bush will respond: flip-flop. He was against it in 2003. And the $60 million in ads Bush has run will help people believe it.

Bush's hundred-million dollar campaign team can't even pull off a bus tour without a gaffe. It turns out that his luxury bus, proudly praising American work ethic, was made in Canada:
It turns out the "Yes, America Can" bus was made in Canada, by Quebec-based Prevost Car. On Monday night, Bush took the bus into suburban Detroit, where foreign-made vehicles have been anathema. Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said the tires, paint and engine were made in the United States. Nevertheless, the discovery provides fodder for Democrats, who have sought to make Bush responsible for the jobs lost abroad during his term.

"Seeing the president drive around in this Canadian-made luxury bus is just another reminder of George Bush's failed economic policies," Singer said.

 

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