Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A self-refuting column?

A recent column by Susan Estrich offers political advice for the Kerry campaign:
Democrats need to stop complaining about the Kerry campaign, because the country is listening and they're taking it seriously. Former campaign managers and consultants with additional criticism, advice or lists of things that Shrum and Mary Beth Cahill did wrong can offer it all by phone.

The country is listening - it's hurting the candidate, making him look weak, which is the last thing he needs.
This is followed by some analysis of the Kerry and Bush campaigns beginning with
John Kerry is finally focused, and he sounds sharp. The polls, for those who insist on them, show the race tightening. What could distort his message is all this insider whining around the Kerry campaign about whether the campaign fought back when it should and who's really in charge - the kind of stuff that can only hurt you.
I know that this would technically depend upon whether Susan Estrich is a Democrat or not, but can I really believe any political analysis that begins with a happy-face sticker getting plastered over it's subject?

So lets ignore the first few sentences and move on. Most of the column is about the public debate among Democrats about the ability or inability of Kerry to respond to criticisms from the Republicans. That is useful and important criticism as far as it goes, although it avoids the deeper and much more damaging point that Kerry's present day troubles largely spring from being defined as a "flip-flopper" by his opponent. After all, what use is responding to criticism if everything you say is simply heralded by your opponent as further evidence of your political opportunism? The double bind of being defined as a flip-flopper, as Dick Morris mentioned noted this year, is that the only way to redefine yourself is to take a stand on one of the weak issues that made you start flip-flopping in the first place.

So what can the Kerry campaign, short of exercising the "Hillary option", do to redefine it's candidate as a bold politician willing to take an unshakeable stand when truth, justice, and the American way is on his side?

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