Has Bush Just Been Keeping His Powder Dry?
Here's the reasoning. John Kerry and the Democrats have just had their biggest moment in the campaign. This was the chance to define and reassure the American people that the Democratic party is the best choice to lead the nation in this time of strife. But since the delegates were so hard-core anti-Bush and out of the mainstream, the convention couldn't reflect their views and expect to win. So we had the famous makeover with lots of "positive" speeches but very little offered in the way of vision for the country and actual differences in policy and direction from the President.
In short, in their one chance in the spotlight to make this a choice about governing philosophies and mission, the Democrats have chosen to make this a question about who's the better man, Bush or Kerry.
That's what it all boils down to once you read the speeches and see what the organizers were up to. They're pinning their hopes on convincing America that John Kerry is more truthful, smarter, braver, and more patriotic than George W. Bush. For all their talk of complexity, the Democratic message is, "We're the good guys, and they're the bad guys." Their one shot at setting the terms of the debate, and this is all they got?
A lot of professional pundits are going to be impressed by the convention, saying "it did what it needed to do," but I get the feeling that the Democrats will soon realize they're facing George W. Bush with an empty gun. Because the most revealing and least-noticed statement in Bush's long-ago interview with Tim Russert, to my mind, is his assertion that he's not going to lose. I begin to think he's once against played weak, gotten his opponents to overextend themselves and commit to a course of action, whereupon he'll pull the rug out from under them and leave them wondering how they got outsmarted by such a dumb guy. It's happened so many times before; why shouldn't it happen again?
I mean, this is what the Bush campaign can now do. They can pick apart Kerry's speech and play it against Democratic weaknesses. Kerry has committed himself and his party to saying that the economy is bad because of outsourcing and poor paying jobs; Bush can now hit back with all the good economic news. Kerry talks about the lack of respect in the world; now is the time to invite leaders from our allies to Rose Garden events and really play up the Oil-For-Food scandal. Truth and credibility? The GOP has an 11-minute video to handle that charge. Attacks on patriotism? Roll the clips of Teresa Heinz Kerry, Michael Moore, and Max Cleland calling Bush unpatriotic. Now is the time to get interviews from returning soldiers or military men currently in the field who are insulted when they're told "help is on the way." As far as they're concerned, help arrived when Bush replaced Clinton.
This is just the advertising campaign. The goal between now and the convention is to blunt all the weak criticisms that have been hurled at the President. Get rid of the albatrosses: Abu Ghraib, Enron, Niger, etc. Unleash the stunning counterattack. At the convention the GOP can basically take back the issues of strength, patriotism, and military pride because they do it so much better than the Democrats (because they actually believe in them.) I think they'll make the arguments the Democrats ran away from, thereby setting the terms of the debate and giving everyone down the ticket something to run on.
I just have this suspicion the past six months have been setting the Democrats up for a landslide loss. If Bush wins with a solid majority, what will it do to a party that's aligned itself around Bush-hatred and winning back power? I still think we're set for an election that will put the Democrats out of power for a generation and that pundits years from now will look back at this time, shake their heads, and wonder why they didn't see it coming.