Double Whammy For Kerry
"The Republicans are skillfully exploiting this weakness in their opponent. At the outset of the campaign, they are making much of Kerry's inconsistent positions on issues and undermining his credibility by attacking his war record.The Republicans are doing just what they need to do here. The basis of Kerry's superior claim for the presidency is that he's the better man: he's smarter, more nuanced, more persuasive to allies, braver, and more patriotic than Bush. He seemed to have a strategy of letting this remain unquestioned and just keep attacking Bush; if his character was attacked, he'd hide behind his Vietnam service, just like he's done so many times before.
At the convention, the GOP is hammering home these issues to set them up for use down the road. Then, in the debates, Bush will close in for the kill, making Kerry fish or cut bait on these pivotal questions, always being prepared to say, "There you go again" if he waffles.
But the Swift Vets have spiked his wheel. They flushed out his trump card before he could play it, and they've put his character into question. He had his shot at the convention to frame the debate in terms of issues: we stand here, Republicans stand here. But he chose not to do that, and now the Republicans have done it for him.
He can't skate over the issues like he'd hoped to. If he decides to try to win by taking a position and offering a clear choice, he's liable to turn off half his home team support. If he tries to pull the both-and nuance thing and basically run on how much wiser he would be as President, the Republicans will nail him on the flip-flip opportunism, and the Swift Vets will keep bringing up the character issues of his Vietnam exaggerations and his post-Vietnam charge against his country. (Incidentally, when the Swift Vets come back into focus with these commercials, that's when Zell Miller's comments are really going to sink in nationwide.)
It's a double whammy, and I don't see where Kerry can move to get out of it. (Good!) He has to hope Bush falters or something diastrous happens with war, terrorism, or the economy and hope the people blame Bush. (Even if he were to win under such a scenario, how could he govern?) Things don't look good for that team.