Jewish World Review March 8, 2004 / 15 Adar, 5764
How Bush can destroy Kerry fast
The Democratic Party chose a nominee Tuesday who probably cannot win the White House in November.
In opting for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and turning down Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Democrats have broken from the pragmatism and moderation that dominated their party's profile under Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the 1990s.
Their party has now moved back to the liberal extremism of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis that characterized the 1980s with the same predictable result.
It is now up to President Bush to take advantage of this by implementing a three-part strategy in the coming campaign.
First, his paid media must attack Kerry's voting record to define him as an ultraliberal. There are likely those in the White House who are urging Bush to run positive ads. That won't work. Even if positive ads produce a small, short-term bounce for Bush, events soon will come to dominate, and the impact of those ads likely will evaporate.
But if Bush uses the next eight months to educate voters on Kerry's opposition to the death penalty, his vote against the 1991 Iraq war, his poor attendance record in the past year and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, he could put this election away by defining Kerry right now.
Kerry has not been tested. He was nominated by running in the shadow of Howard Dean. Throughout the fall, all eyes were on the former Vermont governor. When he crashed and burned in late January, Kerry, as the liberal heir apparent, inherited his disappointed voters.
Meanwhile, Edwards never got the money or the momentum to run a decent race against Kerry because Gen. Wesley Clark remember him? crowded the field. By the time Edwards got Kerry one on one, the number of primary states stretched his resources to the point where he could not afford it.
But now, Kerry is a fair and inviting target. Bush has to zero in on him and push him to the left right now. Whether Kerry ever consorted with Jane Fonda is beside the point, but Kerry's voting record is not.
Second, while his anti-Kerry ads are running, the president himself needs to make Americans understand that the war on terror is still atop our national agenda. He needs to elevate the sense of threat so that his advantage as a war president begins to count.
Kerry has also made a big mistake in backing the criminal-justice approach to terrorism, seeking to transform the war on terror into a series of DEA-style busts. Voters recognize that Bush is right when he says that this is a war against nation-states that sponsor terror, not a hunt for criminal bands in the mountains.
Pundits say that Kerry's admirable war record makes national security irrelevant as a campaign issue. They couldn't be more wrong. His efforts to defund the CIA and his opposition to the funding of the Iraq war are all key targets for Bush.
Some of those who have Bush's ear may urge him to speak more about the economy and less about terror. This would be a big mistake. Bush must use his profile as president to make Americans understand how crucial staying the course in the war on terror is to our safety. Bush has lost a lot of support among women with the war in Iraq. But he can restore that support by stressing the need to make America safe from terror attacks and to stress how important it is to stick to this task.
Finally, Bush must begin to pull American troops out of Iraq after the handover in June. He should leave a sufficient number there, in safe, secluded bases, to intervene if the bad guys try to come back in power. But the daily drip of casualties must end.
President Johnson kept the troops in Vietnam and lost. President Nixon was withdrawing them, and he won.
If Bush's ads and surrogates savage Kerry while the president raises the profile of the war on terror and his foreign-policy team brings the troops home, this race could be over long before either Bush or Kerry is officially designated as the standard bearers of his respective party.
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