Monday, May 10, 2004

Another Bush/Dukakis Comparison

This one is from Dan Payne in Salon.com (subscription / Day Pass required).

Last week, as the Bush campaign and the news media continued to question John Kerry’s heroism during and after the Vietnam War, I detected the beat of what I call the Bush family’s Texas two-step: “Wimp” your opponent, then “weird” him. Make him look soft on defense, then show him to be out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans.

When I discussed this with a friend from Bush War I, the one against Michael Dukakis (I made TV spots for Dukakis during the presidential primaries), we were struck by the banality of the Bushes’ strategy. In 1988, opposing Dukakis, they ran against a Massachusetts liberal. In 2004, opposing Kerry, they’re again trying to run against a Massachusetts liberal.

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Sadly, such attacks are nothing new to Democrats running for president. Republicans have been painting Democrats as dangerously soft on defense since Nixon massacred George McGovern (an honest-to-goodness World War II hero bomber pilot) in 1972. The modest McGovern chose not to discuss his heroism during that campaign; in the Midwest, such a declaration would have been considered boastful. Besides, he was the antiwar candidate. That year, Massachusetts became enshrined as America’s most liberal state when it was the only state in the union to choose McGovern over Nixon. At the same time, in the same state, an antiwar Vietnam veteran lost a race for Congress. His name: John Kerry.

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Whether the Texas two-step succeeds will depend in large part on the toughness and discipline of Kerry and his campaign. It will also depend on whether members of the news media use this early phase of the campaign to find better ways to cover the race, the smears and the candidates — or approach the Bushes, as they have so often done, on bended knee.

While I’m inclined to say that it’s not the same race and Kerry has vowed to respond to every charge, it’s worth reading because the more people who are aware of the tactics used in 1988 to “wimp and weird” the Democratic candidate by the Bush cabal, the less chance they have have of succeeding.