Monday, October 11, 2004


As you may already know from this CNN story, the Bush campaign has rushed out an ad in response to an intelligent, thoughtful statement on terrorism by John Kerry that appeared in The New York Times Magazine:

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

The attack ad turns what Kerry said on its head and suggests that he now thinks terrorism is a "nuisance."

Can the ad be effective? Here it is. -- I can't tell. But my guess is no, and here's why: The Bush campaign, which ought to be called the Anger Management Tour, couldn't control its impulse to rush this ad out two days before the final debate. That means Kerry has nearly 72 hours to hone a reply to it in the forum where the line of attack will get the most exposure. You just know Bush is going to bring it up, regardless of the fact that this is the domestic-policy debate. And now Kerry should be able to see this pitch coming and hit it out of the ballpark.

If the Bushies thought this line of attack could be effective, why didn't they save it up and spring it on Kerry on Wednesday? Well, recall this New York Times story from August:

President Bush will accept his party's nomination in New York this week on the crest of a campaign that aides say reflects an unusual level of involvement from the president himself, particularly in driving attacks on Senator John Kerry that have characterized his re-election effort since the spring....

I think the president -- the guy with the biggest anger management problem in the administration -- wanted it out now.

For the hardcore GOP crowd -- talk radio, Ann Coulter, Fox News, Free Republic folks -- this is huge: Terrorism is not a law enforcement issue, dammit! But it's utterly bizarre that these folks get red in the face about this and then crow about arrests of suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Lackawanna. It's bizarre that on Monday they sneer at anyone who speaks favorably of using law enforcement against terrorism and then demand Patriot Act II on Tuesday. It's bizarre that they almost seem to be implying that working hard to dry up terrorist funding is a bad thing.

But remember that the Bushies are the hardcore GOP crowd. I think Frank Rich was right yesterday:

"I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience" is how Dick Cheney put it earlier this year....

But those who live by Fox News can die by Fox News. If you limit your diet to Fox and its talk-radio and blogging satellites, you may think that the only pressing non-Laci Peterson, non-Kobe, non-hurricane stories are "Rathergate" and the antics of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Your diet of bad news from Iraq is restricted, and Abu Ghraib becomes an over-the-top frat hazing. You are certain that John Kerry can't score in the debates because everyone knows he's an overtanned, overmanicured metrosexual. You reside in such an isolated echo chamber that you aren't aware that even the third-rated network news broadcast, that anchored by the boogeyman Dan Rather, draws 50 percent more viewers on a bad night than "The O'Reilly Factor" does on a great one (the Bush interview).

Eventually you become a prisoner of your own fiction and lose touch with reality.

Let's hope that's what's going on.

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