What Not to DoSeptember 3, 2004
Following the president's acceptance speech, Senator Kerry decided he had had enough and staged a midnight rally in order to defend his honor and attack the White House. I understand the reasoning of the Kerry camp. There has been a fairly substantial change in the polls in the last two weeks, with more bad news likely in the next few days. Rather than play it safe and above the fray, the Republicans did not hesitate to attack the Democrats throughout the four-day convention, including, somewhat uniquely, the acceptance speech itself. Many in the Democratic Party have grown frustrated with the lack of energy and momentum in the Kerry campaign and are fearful that another Massachusetts candidate will fail to be aggressive in responding to attacks.
So, after two weeks of relative obscurity, John Kerry decided it was time to reintroduce himself to America. How? By giving an angry, dismissive, ungracious speech of his own; directly attacking the president and vice-president, including their service (or lack thereof) during Vietnam.
Fair criticism or not, it's difficult to try to remain above petty, angry, attack politics while shouting "I'll tell you who's unfit to serve." The speech could be summed up this way: No, you are!
Kerry also came out against the war in the strongest terms yet, essentially claiming the mantle of anti-war candidate. In fact, it became difficult to imagine how his speech would differ from one given by Michael Moore (complete with references to Halliburton and the Saudis).
All of this can do great wonders for your base, but the only chance Kerry has to win is to convince undecided voters that he is a safe, strong on defense, moderate Democrat in the (perceived) Clinton tradition and not a Dukakis, Mondale or Humphrey.
I'm afraid the Republicans have managed to frustrate Kerry into defending himself down to defeat. In his attempt to stand up to the attacks and show his fire and conviction, he has become exactly what the Republicans wanted: an out-of-the-mainstream, big government, anti-war, flustered, protesting, liberal from Massachusetts.
Check or checkmate?