September 06, 2004

 

Mano a Mano

Frank Rich returned from vacation Sunday with a very strong column (registration required).

Here's his main point:

"Only in an election year ruled by fiction could a sissy who used Daddy's connections to escape Vietnam turn an actual war hero into a girlie-man.
(snip)
Don't believe anyone who says that this will soon fade, and that the election will henceforth turn on health-care policy or other wonkish debate. Any voter who's undecided by now in this polarized election isn't sitting around studying the fine points. In a time of fear, the only battle that matters is the broad-stroked cultural mano a mano over who's most macho. And so both parties built their weeklong infotainments on militarism and masculinity, from Mr. Kerry's toy-soldier "reporting for duty" salute in Boston to the special Madison Square Garden runway for Mr. Bush's acceptance speech, a giant phallus thrusting him into the nation's lap, or whatever. ("To me that says strength" is how his media adviser, Mark McKinnon, forecast the set's metaphorical impact to The Times.)"

***

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Rich. We will not be getting serious discussions of the issues over the next two months. The polls are starting to tilt toward Bush and although the Time poll which showed Bush with an 11-point lead was based on interviews with a grand total of 962 people (!?!?!), the media is running with it and perception is everything. So Kerry, who until now has allowed the Bush camp (with the media's complicity) to completely define him ("He's a French Flip-Flopper"), must come out fighting and start defining Bush. Apparently emboldened by his chat with a pre-surgical Bubba, Kerry came out today with a strong broadside against W:

(from AP)

"Kerry Slams 'Wrong War in the Wrong Place'
Democrat John Kerry accused President Bush on Monday of sending U.S. troops to the 'wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time' and said he'd try to bring them all home in four years.

(snip)

'It all comes down to one letter — W," Kerry said, meaning the initial in George W. Bush. "And the W stands for wrong,' he said. 'The W stands for wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country.'"

***

Predictably, Bush hit back by accusing Kerry of taking "yet another new position" on the war. It's a solid comeback because it utilizes the Bush camp's definition of Kerry (flip-flops, anyone?).

So, is all of this "flip-flop" and the letter "W" talk silly? Yes, of course it is. It's like watching The Electric Company and Sesame Street. But both of those shows proved that kids "learn" from silly repetition. Apparently then, the only way to reach undecided voters is to treat them like children. And, to be honest, if you can't tell the difference between Kerry and Bush at this point in the election then perhaps you need to be treated like a child.

My wife doesn't think "The Letter 'W' stands for Wrong" strategy will work. She correctly thinks it trivializes some very serious issues. But I personally think if Kerry, Edwards and his spokespeople, every single day, repeat the phrase "The Letter 'W' stands for Wrong", like a mantra, and supports it with short- worded issues such as "The Letter 'W' stands for Wrong -- Wrong on War, Wrong on Healthcare, Wrong on Tax Breaks for the Wealthy, Wrong on the Environment, then, with the media's help (okay, I know, I'm being naive), perhaps the perception that, "hey, duh, W is W.R.O.N.G." will finally sink into the fragile brains of the undecided "kids" across our great nation. People bought "Where's The Beef", "Read My Lips", "There You Go Again" and "Saddam Has WMD." Hey, you never know...there's a sucker born minute.

I'm just sayin'...

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