July 26, 2004
John Kerry wants to mute the criticism of Bush this week, but he needs to draw a distinction between criticizing the President and criticizing the President's polices.
The former is risky. The latter is crucial.
Kerry is right to be wary of turning off undecided voters with partisan jibes at the President's personality.
Even Ann Richards's 1992 dart that Bush's dad was born with a silver foot in his mouth might be pushing it this week.
Knowing that the Republicans and Fox feasted on the Wellstone funeral and made Kerry sit on a Whoopi cushion at the recent New York celebrity fundraiser, Democrats are cautious about saying anything that might appear impertinent.
Now I like impertinence more than the next guy, but they're probably being sensible this time around.
But that doesn't mean the Dems should muffle their voices when it comes to pointing out the dimensions of the Bush disaster: from the Iraq War to the Patriot Act to the environment to labor rights, abortion, and gay marriage.
Problem is, on the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, Kerry and Edwards went right along. And the Democratic platform on both is about as creaky as you can get.
While it criticizes Bush's unilateralism on Iraq, it does not say the war was wrong. Instead, it says, "Having gone to war, we cannot afford to fail at peace."
At the occupation is more like it. Kerry is all in favor of that. In fact, he wants to send more troops over, even though 900 have died there already.
On the Patriot Act, the platform committee refused to spell out how the Democratic Party would rewrite it to protect civil liberties, as John Nichols of The Nation reported.
This is the problem with the Kerry strategy. By so toning down its rhetoric and by so rotting out key planks of the platform, he risks underwhelming his core supporters.
The Democrats are relying on Bush to get out the vote for Kerry.
And that may be a fatal mistake.