Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Down and Dirty

There’s an excellent article by Eric Boehlert in today about how the Republicans fight dirty (they called it “rat-fucking” back in the halcyon days of the Nixon campaign) and how the Democrats need to fight back just as hard. Boehlert also takes the press to task for their laziness and lack of energy to look into the story when people like the SBVT make shit up and get it on TV. (So far no one in the mainstream press has editorialized that Bush is a flip-flopper for his “can’t win the war on terror” gaffe.)

But as anyone who has been reading this or any other liberal/left blog will know, we have been ringing this bell since before the primaries started. (I warned of the Republicans’ tactics – especially the hand of Karl Rove – in one of my first posts on this blog on November 8, 2003.) It’s no great surprise that the Republicans would mount this kind of campaign; the only thing we didn’t know was to what lengths and depths they would go to. We had a long history to examine – Bush I vs. Dukakis in 1988 (remember Willie Horton and the “card-carrying member of the ACLU” line), Bush I vs. Clinton in 1992 (Gennifer Flowers didn’t just happen to remember her affair without some prompting), Bush II vs. Gore in 2000 – and so seeing this current campaign is not news. It’s a pattern not only of the party but of the man they’re promoting.

George W. Bush not only campaigns this way. This is how he runs his administration. Look back at how he built up the campaign to attack Iraq. He had nothing but a lot of rhetoric and flimsy evidence – much of it fabricated or tampered with – and he made a case built on dire predictions of what would happen if he didn’t succeed. Only after it was too late did we find out it was all bullshit. But to him, it didn’t matter; he got what he wanted. The same holds true for any initiative or policy he wants to push through Congress like tax cuts, education reform, prescription medicines in Medicare to name just a few. He lays out the plan as the only way to go, attacks his opponents as being out of the mainstream, puffs up the benefits with inflated half-truths or just plain lies, and scares the bejesus out of anyone who dares to stand in his way. So if you’re shocked and surprised by the vicious attacks on John Kerry and anyone else who stands up to Bush, you haven’t been paying attention.

Josh Marshall warns against panic and twitterpation in the Democratic ranks. A few setbacks and softening in the polls for Kerry doesn’t call for hand-wringing and staff shake-ups in the campaign. Do you think anyone’s going to get fired at the Bush campaign because Bush slipped (and actually told the truth) in his interview with Matt Lauer? Hardly. If they didn’t fire Rumsfeld because of Abu Ghraib, they’re sure as hell not going to ditch Karen Hughes because she let Bush off the leash. One thing I’ll give the Republicans is that they are much more disciplined when it comes to running their campaigns, and they have a unique way of getting their enemies to shoot themselves in the foot. The worst thing we can do is let them get away with it.