August 16th, 2004


Kerry v Bush and the problem with Kerry

So as promised, some more thoughts on Kerry.

I think Kerry's biggest problem is that he thinks too damn much about things sometimes - and then he spews those thoughts all over without cleaning them up. I tend to be the same way. Ask me a simple question over email, and I will get into a 17 page discourse on the topic in my reply - often just because I get lost in my thoughts. It's very easy for my mind to go wandering, and I tend to subject people to that wandering in real-time. What I mean by that is that I'll be thinking through the issue, and rather than just think it through and present a coherent, cohesive, concise response that cuts to the heart of the matter, I'll babble on and on and on in a somewhat freeform manner until I've gotten through one set of thoughts. And then I hit send. Or post, as it may be.

Kerry seems to do the same thing. He really does strike me as intelligent, and it's not that he overthinks things, he just talks too damn much about them. If you read my last post and followed the links, you'll have seen how that Slate reporter does a brilliant job of illustrating the problem. If you haven't read it yet, go here and read it already:

Done? Good.

He said something both amusing and telling: "Kerry sticks to his position. He doesn't answer Stahl's question. But this time, somebody who can speak English is sitting next to Kerry: John Edwards. Seconds after the RNC cuts away from the interview, Edwards steps in to rescue his running mate."

The irony, of course, is that a response with many fine nuances is often the best one, since questions can rarely be answered with a simple yes or no. There are always things you have to stipulate or qualify, and without those, you tend to oversimplify the issue. Kerry rarely has that problem, anyways.

This is where Bush has the advantage. In typical Republican fashion - i.e. cynical and manipulative but very tactically sound - he has found a way to capitalize on his own faults. Kerry has problems speaking to ordinary people in reasonable ways. So does Bush, as anyone who has ever hear him butcher the English language can attest to, but unlike Kerry, he's found a way to use that to his own advantage. By playing himself off as 'just an ordinary guy' and 'an average American', he can make his mistakes seem charming, appealing, humanizing. Kerry's speaking faults distance him from the people he speaks to; Bush's faults actually draw him closer and win him their sympathy and understanding. It's amazing, and if I'm right, a brilliant choice.

The Republicans have consistently shown that they are in it to win, and they will do what they feel they have to in order to win. They really are good at focusing on that. Democrats, on the other hand, are often worried about the theoretical and how things should be rather than focusing on winning first and foremost. They often seem unprepared and inept compared to the Republican machine. Look at how quickly the Republicans responded to Edwards being chosen by Kerry, or Kerry's little slip-up on the word sensitive, or any of that sort of thing. In every case, they responded with lightning speed and enviable consistency. They are always on message. (That message may be total bullshit and a blatant lie, but they're always on it regardless.) They often plan ahead and prepare for things before they happen, rather than just reacting to them. For instance, again when Edwards was chosen, within hours, maybe even minutes, they had arguments about why he was so bad, and they all - ALL - stayed on message, driving home the same talking points to American voters. They're much more ruthless about their pursuit of power, and so they've been winning so far.

The good thing is, at least in one sense, that they've been so incompetent and arrogant about actually delivering on anything they talk about that the American people are starting to really notice and respond. Bush's ratings go down on a daily basis, and I have great hopes for November. We'll see, though - I suspect the Bush administration and its followers are far from done with this fight.

(And now, to bed - I'm wiped out and in desperate need of some sleepy time. Apologies if I veer into incoherence at times in this post.)
  • Current Music
    Beastie Boys - Shake Your Rump

Wow. Kerry campaign donates $6m to the DCCC and DSCC!

Woah. The Kerry/Edwards campaign just donated $3 million each to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Apparently the presidential campaign brought in so much money - $225 million - that they figured they could spare a little to help a few other Democrats get elected.

In Q2, the DSCC raised a total of $15.1 million, and the DCCC raised $16 million, so getting an extra $3m will be a huge shot in the arm for each organization.

Interestingly, while they're almost tied in money raised since the beginning of 2003, the DSCC has been greatly out-earning the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) in more recent times - $15.1m vs. around $11m for Q2. (Of course, that means the NRSC was out-earning the DSCC before - which is good, as it implies the tides are changing, and this is just the time for it to happen.)

This is an interesting little twist, and shows a heartening willingness to shoot for the bigger picture from the Kerry/Edwards campaign - after all, having a lame duck president would be better than having Dubya in office, but it certainly wouldn't accomplish a lot of positive changes. If they can increase the number of Democrats in the Senate and the House, and get Kerry elected, we could have a very positive 4 years coming up. Huzzah.
  • Current Mood
    surprised surprised

Crazy idea...

Ok, here's a weird and crazy but interesting idea, which originally came from my dad, actually. I'm just expanding on it and posting it here.

What if Kerry spent that campaign money of his in an unusual way - rather than just running the standard ads, what if some of that money went to things like hurricane relief in Florida, or to dealing with other actual real-life issues where people were suffering? Maybe throw $10 or $15m around to various states and non-profits to try to actually improve the quality of life for people? Can you imagine if Kerry showed up at the head of a fleet of trucks of workers and supplies (or whatever) someplace and if all of the people that he brought with him were wearing Kerry/Edwards shirts?

Now, before you accuse me of just using peoples' emotions to try to score Kerry some points, think of it this way. If you have to make the public aware of your actions and get your name out there to win, and you can either spend money on a political ad, or spend money doing something that will get you lots of free press, if both get you a similar amount of goodwill, then you've broken even, right? But spending money on people will have another side effect - it will improve their lives. So maybe that $10m won't be quite as effective as running ads (although I'd argue that if they played the media right it could be a lot more effective!) but imagine the difference it would make to the actual people that benefited from it. And think of this - if one of the campaigns just personally spent the money to help you when you were out of house and home or whatever, wouldn't that make a real difference when it came to place your vote? If the meal you fed your children, or the books you gave them for school, were given to you by one of the campaigns, don't you think you'd remember that in November?

So you might argue "Well, Bush can just do the same thing!". And my response to that? EXACTLY! How great would it be if rather than getting into an escalating battle of advertising, they got into an escalating battle of good deeds and donations? Obviously, you can't ignore advertising and other efforts, but if each campaign even gave 10% of its funds to helping people directly, how great would that be? If we have to be cynical and win people over, why not win them over by actually improving their lives right here, right now, rather than broadcasting promises of what you'll do next year?

I know, it's a bit crazy, but c'mon, you can't deny that it's got some real appeal, no?

(Update: Incidentally, does anyone know enough about campaign finance law to tell me if that's even legally possible? I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are rules preventing them from doing that sort of thing, limiting how they can spend their money. It makes sense, but it'd be disappointing. Anyways.)
  • Current Mood
    excited excited

Dance of the Stem Cells

Ok, this one is too good not to quote. It gets off to a slightly slow start, but it's really quite good by the end.

Dance of the Stem Cells
by Michael Kinsley
The Washington Post

Maybe I missed it, but it seems as if Laura Bush has not had her Lady Macbeth Moment. This is the period, hallowed by tradition if not actually written into the Constitution, when the media discover that the president's wife is the power behind the throne. She is not the sweet helpmate she appears to be. Underneath, there is steel. In fact, she is a (insert a word -- there are more than one -- beginning with "b"). She is her husband's closest adviser and a fierce protector of his place in history. She curbs his partisan instincts or, alternatively, she keeps him on the ideological course. A well-known male rival for the president's ear has been fired on her instructions.
Collapse )