Why Kerry Attacks Don't Work
For some bizarre reason, people actually seem convinced that John Kerry and the Democrats didn't attack the President until the past couple of weeks. (Apparently they didn't notice the Democratic primaries, MoveOn.org, George Soros, Michael Moore, and the overuse of the weasel word "misled.") So pundits and commentators have been begging John Kerry to go on the attack, and he's pledged to do so and has tried to do so.
John Kerry was on Imus this morning (still waiting for a media interview with a tough questioner.) He attacked Bush on: lost jobs, expensive health care, "miscalculating" the war, Enron, drugs from Canada, yada yada yada. In fact, his entire appearance is about attacking Bush, second-guessing everything he's done about Iraq, and saying he would be better just because he's new and supposedly so smart.
Here's Kerry's problem.
His attacks fall into one of three categories. First, most of what he's trying to pin on Bush is penny-ante kind of stuff when compared to the threat of terrorism. Nobody really cares about whether there have been fewer jobs lost under Bush or whether outsourcing happens when there are people actively trying to kill us. That's trivia, compared to what's happened over the past few years.
Second, the whole "I would have done everything differently" blather falls flat because John Kerry's been in the Senate the entire duration of Bush's presidency, and he didn't say any of this stuff at the time it should have been said (i.e., when it would have demonstrated leadership and political courage.) He made statements about what should have happened after negative consequences from decisions rose up. If Kerry really thought we shouldn't have rushed to war, then we should have a speech from mid-February in which he told President Bush to trust the inspectors instead of giving Saddam a deadline. (But wouldn't that have showed our enemy that we weren't united in the face of war and thus demoralized our troops and hurt our national unity? Yeah, but that didn't stop Kerry in the '70s, did it?) Monday-morning quarterbacks aren't leaders.
Third and finally, the Democrats' usual scare tactics just don't work when we've got a real enemy. When times are becalmed, a Halliburton or Big Oil or HMOs make a decent boogeyman. But it's hard to be afraid of the Big Bad Wolf when real wolves are out there trying to kill you.
Bush is only vulnerable to attacks from the right, and Kerry can't make those arguments. Consequently, the only thing Kerry can hope for is the personal smear, and the CBS hoax story is crippling that. Once someone comes out and just says, "CBS is lying to help Democrats and hurt Republicans," then it spreads to all kinds of personal smear tactics and reduces the public trust in the MSM to a level closer to which they actually deserve.
Yeah, John-John, just keep attacking.