Second Thots

Sometimes one has to step back, take pause, and have some "second thots"

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Is the Kerry campaign desperate?

What does it say about the Kerry campaign that they would jump on this 'missing explosives' story in the final days of the campaign? One of the basic lessons of Political Science 101 is this: you can tell how a political campaign is doing not necessarily by the available polling data but by their actions and decisions on the campaign trail. Looking at the actions and decisions of the Kerry campaign in recent days, they are doing whatever they possibly can to make a campaign issue out of this weapons story. It might not require a course in political science to conclude from these actions that the Kerry camp feels it necessary to use this tactic with only days remaining until the campaign is over.

They could have easily let the media deal with the matter. A campaign which believed its candidate was in a horse race with the other guy might have felt comfortable in allowing the scales to tip in its favor as a result of even the suggestion that Bush lost tons of dangerous explosives in Iraq. This could have happened if John Kerry let the media handle this while he laid back and watched Bush squirm. Jumping in with both feet the way he did, however, suggests his people felt it was necessary that their presidential contender lead the charge in accusing a sitting president of giving away dangerous weapons to the enemy during war.

Just think about the risks involved for Kerry in making this tactical decision at this crucial point in the campaign. He is putting his presidential aspirations on the line on the bet that the seriousness of the allegations against Bush will outweigh any actual evidence in support of those allegations. What a remarkable gamble to make for a candidate so many assume to be only a few percentage points away from taking the Oval Office. Judging by his actions, seems to me that he may be more than a few percentage points away.

Why else would he accuse the President of losing weapons on his watch? Why else would he make himself the messenger of these serious accusations? Why else would he fail to wait until all the facts and information are in before he draws his own remarkable conclusions? Why else would he fail to wait for at least some kind of an alternative explanation for what happened? Why else would John Kerry be screaming, "Fire! Fire!", before even knowing if there is a fire or if there was any reason to scream in the first place?

Politicians are notorious for taking risks only when necessary. They putter along, going from one mundane decision until the next, doing whatever they can to avoid placing their reputations on the line or their careers at risk. And when they do, they do so with careful deliberation and having thought through many of the potential consequences. Yet here we have John Kerry, in an apparently tight election race, wasting no time to do the politically unthinkable: take a risk when logic and circumstances would dictate a safer course of action. Unless, of course, John Kerry knew something many of us didn't: he needed something big in order to win this election. Well, he's doing something big alright. It remains to be seen if he has saved himself, or if he has helped put the noose around his neck.

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