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A Liberal Strategy

Josh Marshall and Michael Tomasky have done a good job dissecting the actual structure of the Republican strategy for branding John Kerry. They have asked the question: what is the liberal counterpart to this branding strategy?

After letting the situation percolate for a few days, I have the beginning of my answer. I'll present it as an exposition, without commenting on its strengths and weaknesses (though of course it has plenty). Feedback is welcome.

The thought "we want the American voting public to be thinking about [George W. Bush] by November 2," [Tomasky's phrasing]: "George W. Bush, wrong for the American people."

Strategy: three steps to get there from here:

  1. Out of Touch. Bush is not informed about the world and not aware of the challenges real Americans are facing. He doesn't read the papers and he relies on his upper level advisors for all of his information. He shows how out of touch he is in two ways. First, in his panglossian take on the last four years. He's not aware of or able to relate to the struggles facing Americans - low wages, missing jobs, expensive health insurance, etc. He doesn't realize that we aren't safer now than we were four years ago.

    Second, in his consistent distortion of Kerry's positions. George W. Bush criticizes Kerry for a $2 trillion dollar increase in spending when he has proposed a $3 trillion increase.

  2. Irresponsible. These are serious times, and they call for responsible, adult leadership. George W. Bush fails on two counts. First, he is incapable of making hard decisions. He can't choose between two policies when a tradeoff is involved. We are on the precipice with North Korea and Iraq and Bush can't decide whether to turn the wheel or hit the brakes. He invaded Iraq only because he thought it would be easy. He couldn't even be bothered to fund it; the same goes for the rest of his decisions.

    Second, George W. Bush evades accountability for everything. He blames problems on other people (usually Clinton) or acts of God. He blames failures on Democrats or underlings. The American people need a go to man, someone willing to take the blame for failures and someone who deserves praise for successes. George Bush is neither.

  3. Unconcerned. George W. Bush takes only one thing seriously, and that's his re-election. He is willing to sacrifice anything for his personal advantage. He gives contracts to financial contributors, lets corrupt supporters off the hook for defrauding the American people, and lets contributors pillage our public resources. He distorts science to advance his agenda, sacrifices minorities and risks the health of the American people to shore up his support among his base. This lack of concern is born of his arrogance and sense of entitlement.
Tactics: It's a simple division. When George W. Bush attacks John Kerry, accuse him of being out of touch. When he accuses Kerry of proposing too much spending, respond with: "It's unfortunate that President Bush hasn't taken the time to familiarize himself with Kerry's plan before attacking it," and "he was probably pretty embarrassed to discover that he had proposed 150% the spending of John Kerry." When he accuses Kerry of voting against the intelligence budget in the 90's, we should simply note that "If President Bush knew more about the state of the intelligence services at the time, he wouldn't be making those arguments. He should ask Vice President Cheney and Congressman Porter Goss why they supported similar cuts at the time." It's a simple formula: when Bush attacks, simply note that he's out of touch, doesn't have the facts right, and is guilty himself.

When George W. Bush defends, accuse him of evading accountability. He's had four years to shape the country, and he's succeeded in passing a massive agenda through the Republican Congress. If we can't hold him accountable, the American people can never hold a first term president accountable. Accountability to the people is more important now than ever.

"Unconcerned" is for the attack. He is an arrogant little man that thinks God wants him to be president, and is working to carry out God's will. Everything else falls by the wayside. National security is a prop, literally in the case of "Mission Accomplished," figuratively in the case of the October surprise. The economy is something to talk about in a pretty way, but otherwise reward his supporters and try to build a permanent Republican majority. Social issues are wedges, mercilessly used to divide the American people in a time when unity is necessary, and actually existed for a while. George Bush is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

George W. Bush: Out of Touch. Irresponsible. Unconcerned. Wrong for the American People.


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