Friday, August 27, 2004

Dukakisize Me 

Dept. of Please Pass the Strychnine: From the U.S. News & World Report Daily Bulletin (courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.):
As polls continue to show the Vietnam War swift boat controversy hurting Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid, more Republican officials and Bush advisers are asserting that it will be the key event that won the fall election for the president. "Looking back a year from now, it will be the biggest story besides the [Iraqi] war during this election cycle," an administration and congressional GOP adviser told the US News Bulletin. "The 'Defining of John Kerry' is now moving forward in voters minds at warp speed. Daily drip, drip, drip – 24-hour news cycle dropping on his medals, his conduct over there, his conduct when he returned. Game, Set, Match." GOP strategists said that the efforts by the anti-Kerry swift boat veterans has helped the Bush campaign's bid to portray Kerry as a flip-flopper by playing up questions about his service in Cambodia and situation around his Purple Heart medals. The strategists also said that Kerry has been surprisingly unable to extract himself from the controversy. Unlike former President Bill Clinton, who faced multiple controversies including drug use, sexual misconduct and draft dodging during his first presidential campaign, Kerry, they believe, has not been able to turn the issue around. One reason, they said, is that the Kerry opponents "have nothing to lose" and don't care if Bush pressures them to stop the ads. "This is their moment to help re-define in the collective consciousness of America the war that defined their young lives 35 years ago. John Kerry is the vehicle for that redefinition," said a GOP political strategist of the swift boat vets in an email. "It is amazing to watch. All these punks driving around with 'No Fear' bumper stickers on their cars – these are truly guys with no fear. They have been to hell and back."
Meanwhile, items like the one below (forwarded to us by Zemblan patriot M.G.) are roundly ignored, making us wish that the fearless liars who "have been to hell and back" had done us all a favor by staying there:
On Feb. 28, 1969, my husband was the commander of one of three Swift boats traveling the Dong Cung in Vietnam to carry troops and supplies upriver. The events of that day, and what happened almost two weeks later on another Swift boat patrol, have become a source of controversy in the presidential campaign, with a group of veterans saying that John Kerry did not deserve the medals he won for what he did then. I know my husband thought otherwise.
Lt. j.g. Donald Droz won a Bronze Star with combat "V" for his actions on Feb. 28:
Don did bring the citation to Hawaii a few weeks later, and I traveled from our home in Pennsylvania with our infant daughter, Tracy, to meet him for his R&R. But before that meeting, Don and John Kerry and others were involved in another battle, on March 13. Don did not write to me about that battle. But he did tell me about it during our five days together in Hawaii - when he met our daughter for the first time, and held her for what turned out to be the last time.

In Hawaii, Don mostly talked about the future: how he wanted to come home, go to graduate school and then become involved in public service. But he also talked about Vietnam: about how much respect all the "Swifties" had for one another. I remember him saying that John Kerry was heading home, deservedly so, and that he admired his bravery and planned to see him that summer.

Don also talked about how hard it was to be in a situation where no one knew what was around the next bend or what the "rules" were or who was friend and who was foe. He told me he was convinced that what the United States was doing in Vietnam was pointless or worse and that, when he got home, he intended to speak out against it. But he was clear - and I have always understood - that he was criticizing the war itself and those who were deciding how to wage it, not those who were putting their lives on the line to do their duty honestly and bravely.

Those who had the courage to fight in Vietnam and, when they returned home, to tell of the reality of what they saw deserve our admiration. I am certain my husband would have been as appalled as I am at the spectacle of some veterans questioning others' service.

Don died on April 12, 1969, just two weeks after we said goodbye in Hawaii and two months before he would have come home. Ever since, I have felt a special obligation to speak the truth as I know he would have done.
William Greider, writing in The Nation, has the Bush technique down cold:
The Bush campaign strategy is already in play before the GOP convention. The President runs on fear and character assassination--big fear and big lies. While Bush's claims and insinuations are utterly distant from the truth, the strategy can't be dismissed, because Republicans are so experienced at this kind of politics. GOP marketing proceeds on a cynical assumption that voters can be moved by the brazen repetition of evocative falsehoods and broad-brush caricature. Their model is 1988, when Bush's daddy used the racist "Willie Horton" ads and "card-carrying member of the ACLU" to defenestrate Michael Dukakis, a decent and capable governor they turned into a national joke.

For big fear, Bush Junior has the federal government at his disposal, and he's using it to pump up anxieties. Does anyone think the "Ashcroft alert," based on old and murky material, was anything more than a thematic tuneup for the fall campaign? Nor was the White House necessarily upset by the headlines about FBI agents chasing after antiwar protesters who might be planning "violent" actions at the GOP convention. Anything that polarizes public opinion about unknown dangers is assumed to help Bush. Meantime, his war planners are suddenly escalating the "threat" rhetoric surrounding Iran and its nuclear bomb-making. Anything that changes the conversation from Iraq can be helpful too.

For personal slander, the Bush regime is hurling mud at Kerry's brightest armor--his sterling reputation as a decorated Vietnam War hero. The Swift Boat veterans attacking Kerry are clearly agents of the Republican machine--financed by Bush money boys and already exposed for multiple lies and distortions. The well-coordinated attack has produced a media tempest, but this is August, the doldrums between conventions, and we can't yet know how much real damage may be done.
The new poll data cited above, which was released after Greider's deadline, suggests that we may not want to know. The balance of his article optimistically suggests a number of strategies Kerry might use to turn the smear campaign to his advantage; let's hope the advice has not arrived too late.

(And before we forget: a tip of the imperial diadem to Zemblan patriot M.S. for the title.)

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