September 8, 2004
By Brian Bentley
The bloody War in Iraq paled in comparison to Tuesday's War of Words in the 2004 Presidential campaign. Vice President, Dick Cheney, veering off course like an errant Tomahawk cruise missile, suggested that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for weaker security, making it likely that we will be "hit again" with another U.S. mainland terrorist attack. In other words, if you want John Kerry for President, then you want to die.
A brittle and weary George W. Bush had no comment when asked about Cheney's remarks, as Cheney was apparently in hiding and unable to brief the President on what to say. Surprisingly enough, John Kerry also had nothing to say, letting his defiantly-perky running mate, John Edwards, do all the talking. Edwards said it was "inappropriate" for Cheney to "threaten the American people."
As the administration's deafening silence regarding this latest foray into the gutter of American politics leaves the Vice President to flap in the breeze, the usual assortment of right wing mouthpieces will soon be forced to unsay what Cheney said, because he didn't mean to say it so honestly. But that's what campaigns are all about today. Candidates hide behind the veil of "moderation" while subordinates are left to sling mud like chimpanzees. As cunning and ruthless a politician as they come, Cheney is hoping to raise the stakes even higher. MSNBC's Chris Matthews stated tonight, "This has become a one-issue campaign and if the American voters actually buy what Cheney is selling, then this election is over, now."
To further confuse the splintered fence sitters in the swing states, Democratic forces have finally responded to all things Swift Boat with a fresh and particularly effective campaign questioning George W. Bush's military service in Alabama. None of the men interviewed in the new series of TV spots ever remembered serving with George W., or even seeing him on the premises. At this point, with their candidate having taken a severe public beating for a month, the Democrats are best advised to fight as dirty as they can to survive. The American public has never been more easily distracted or frightened – whether it's scrutinizing old war records, or voting for old liars they are too afraid to question.
It is difficult to recollect a Presidential campaign in recent memory that has produced such polarity and raw vitriol. Zell Miller and Michael Moore are just opposite ends of the same one-sided coin. Their brand of Extreme politics isn’t exactly wooing that great American diva, the Undecided Voter. While good ol' Zell's fire and brimstone expansionist zeal drives Midwest moderates toward Kerry, Michael Moore's ill-advised, embarrassing appearance at the RNC was a self-indulgent, self-promoting misstep for the Party. As Pat Buchanan said recently, "Wow, you could not have gotten a better endorsement for Bush – this guy (Moore) as the sole representative for the Democrats at the other guy's convention."
Meanwhile Kerry's camp denies that the next print campaign will feature their candidate on milk cartons and Kerry continues to impress the world as a numbingly sterile public speaker, flatter than Michael Dukakis at a pancake breakfast. Last week, he again issued conflicting opinions on the war, leaving the casual observer to wonder how he ever hopes to define himself. Does he have a strategy for anything? What was he thinking when he scheduled his first official speech in response to the Republican convention, for after midnight, in the middle of nowhere, when few reporters would bother covering it?
It is no surprise that Kerry's boilerplate responses to Bush’s attacks are largely ignored by everyone in the media except The Los Angeles Times. While Bush is an unpredictable and quotable villain, Kerry is a press release, always on the defensive, using the same canned rhetoric. He suffers from a stubborn inability to switch gears when the situation demands stronger words and faster responses. This week, he has focused solely on economic and domestic issues because they are comfortable and safe topics, even when faced with the reality that those in the Midwest who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, still worry more about the War. With the air of an undertaker, Kerry appears stiff, robotic and dark, possessing more hair than passion. Never have the forces of good had a tougher sell.
On the other side, Bush obviously believes history can repeat itself and that he can steal another election. That's why he's currently lobbying hard for two presidential debates instead of three. What candidate of integrity wants the voters to be exposed to him less, rather than more?
John Kerry clearly has his work cut out for him. Bill Clinton is on injured reserve and cannot bail him out of the game. Kerry's unstable wife had a recent meltdown on the campaign trail and was hospitalized. Big John is also a Massachusetts Democrat. These are not good signs at the moment. Those who know Kerry, say he is best when the chips are down and his back is against the wall. Maybe he is luring Bush into overconfidence, a political rope-a-dope. Or maybe Kerry is just frozen, like a deer in headlights. At this point, his best chance is to pray that Dick Cheney keeps blurting out the truth, because truth is the one thing that George W. Bush can’t handle.