Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo
has this to say about Mr. Kerry's new ad called "Old Tricks"
Today, though, the Kerry campaign came out with a very powerful ad, one which in its tone and focus is exactly where the Kerry campaign needs to go.
It's called Old Tricks and the entire ad is a brief exchange from a debate from February 15th 2000 (which the political junkies among us probably remember) in which John McCain -- then in the thick of Bush's smears -- told Bush to his face to stop getting others to smear him over his war record. He ends by telling him he should be ashamed. The camera focuses on Bush and catches him not knowing how to respond, with what I think even his supporters would have to agree is a callow, trapped look on his face.
I say this is exactly where the Kerry campaign needs to go because it very powerfully captures a truth about President Bush -- namely, that he's a coward who truly lacks shame.
I don't say he's a coward because he kept himself out of Vietnam three decades ago. I know no end of men of that age who in one fashion or another made sure they didn't end up in Indochina in those days. (I quickly ran through both hands counting guys I talk to on a regular basis.) And they include many of the most admirable people I know.
He's a coward because he has other people smear good men without taking any responsibility, without owning up to it or standing behind it. And when someone takes it to him and puts him on the spot to defend his actions -- as McCain does in this spot -- he's literally speechless. Like I say, a coward.
As I said earlier, this is vintage Bush. And it's also a subtle nod to all the ways that Bush is someone who's always gotten by with help at all the key moments from family friends, retainers and others similarly hunting for access and power.
There's another element to this ad that we'd be remiss not to note too. It puts McCain on the spot and pulls him right back to the center of this battle. Given the fervor of his words, he can hardly disavow them or complain of their use. But there's something else too. If you listen to the ad you'll see McCain hangs his demand for an apology on a letter signed by five senators, each Vietnam vets, calling on Bush to apologize for his smears against McCain.
The five, as reported by the Times on February 5th, 2000: Senators Max Cleland of Georgia, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles S. Robb of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
In another post, Josh had this
As I said, I think the Kerry campaign is right to go aggressively on the attack against the president for running his campaign this way and seeking to profit politically from this garbage. But that's not enough. Kerry's surrogates have to go aggressively on the attack against the president on all his many points of vulnerability, which are legion -- his dishonesty about his own gap-ridden service in the Texas Air National Guard, his White House's on-going efforts to cover up the Plame leak, the endless record of deceptions tied to the Iraq invasion, all of it.
Counterattacking on the president's shameless behavior on the Swift Boat matter is necessary, but hardly sufficient. To be successful, Kerry and his team and his surrogates (you know, the folks he's on a first name basis with but doesn't know from Adam and can't control in any way) need to place the president on the defensive across the board.
This whole Swift Boat episode is entirely in keeping not just with the record of George W. Bush, but, to be frank, his whole family. Think back to the 1988 and 1992 presidential races. Partly, it's in the their political DNA. But it's also in the nature of blue bloods trying to ape populist politics -- for the key example, see the 1992 GOP convention in Houston and the sad antics of Bush family retainer Rich Bond.
I said a few days ago that it was ridiculous to compare the ads run by Moveon to the Swift Boat ones. And it's true -- they're very soft soap in comparison. But that's a mistake. They should be hitting much harder.
The president has chosen the ground on which he wants to fight this campaign. And as per usual he's mobilized friends and family retainers to do the fighting for him. The president is playing tackle football, not touch or flag. If the Dems keep up with the latter they'll lose.
Back in the primaries John Kerry would say that if the Bushies thought they could pull a Max Cleland on him, he'd say, "Bring it on." Well, it's on.
My sense of Kerry is almost entirely defined by watching his 1996 race against Bill Weld up close. So I think he has it in him to fight. But now's when we find out.