Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Is Kerry campaign out of time?

Pat Murphy

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Bill Clinton, who scored his own comeback from the brink of defeat, is feeding ideas, strategies and strategists to John Kerry to rescue Kerry?s foundering campaign. Will it make a difference? Or has time run out for Kerry?

Kerry?s troubles began weeks ago when he succumbed to the seductive maidens of defeat?Ineptness and Complacency?when poll numbers suggested he had George Bush on the ropes.

So, Kerry and advisers ignored a trove of ammo they could?ve used against the Bush presidency, some of which might support impeachment.

But Kerry squandered opportunity, detoured by the worn out, spiritless ideas of veteran Democratic campaign adviser Bob Shrum, best known for jinxing and losing presidential elections.

Kerry?s stilted, colorless, wordy delivery hasn?t helped, either. It?s not electrifying or warm.

Had Kerry used a device as simple as a large backdrop listing the sins of the Bush presidency, and recited them line by line with the question from a campaign of yesteryear??Are we better off today than four years ago???he would?ve created the portrait of a president reckless with the nation?s economy, reckless with truth, reckless with lives of military men and women, reckless with international alliances, reckless with the environment, reckless with civil liberties, reckless with the public?s right to know.

The Kerry campaign also ignored an astonishing fact?more than 50 percent of the public believes the country is headed in the wrong direction under George Bush.

Character should be a major issue. The White House decision to support gutter tactics to destroy Kerry as it did in 2000 against Vietnam vets Sen. John McCain and Sen. Max Cleland is shameless. Recruiting the vile, ranting old-line Georgia segregationist Sen. Zell Miller to keynote the Republican convention with a crazed recital of distortions and outright lies speaks volumes about the mentality of the president?s inner circle.

Abuse of power is an issue. He approved a discredited secret Pentagon unit to justify attacking Iraq on false pretenses. In appealing to the Cuban-American vote, he ordered new sanctions on Cuba?s Fidel Castro. He also gave the go-ahead for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to finish a controversial housing settlement that once would've been condemned, a move U.S. and Israeli critics consider an appeal for U.S. Jewish votes.

Deceiving Congress is another. His Medicare director purposely understated the cost of costs by more than $100 billion to win congressional approval.

The Bush record demands from Kerry a far more rigorous challenge than he?s mustered.

If John Kerry wants to avoid a licking at the ballot box, he must take on George Bush, not merely go through the motions of repeating the rote of a political campaign.

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