Kerry Lost by Letting Bush Go the Distance
By Dr. Muhammad Obed, MD
Kerry did not win the debate again. It will be hard for him to win the election
if he does not knock Bush out in the final debate two days from now.
In any close election the debates gain increased importance. It is through these
debates that the candidates keep their bases energized and motivated thus
ensuring that most of their guaranteed votes are cast . Further they try to win
over as large a chunk of the undecided segment as possible. The significance of
this being a time of war cannot be stressed enough and the only way a challenger
may win at this time is by establishing beyond reasonable doubt that the
incumbent is too reckless and untrustworthy to continue to lead the nation
during such an emergency.
If one were to apply the above criteria Bush emerges the winner in the last
debate if by default since he succeeded in not getting knocked out. By
performing was much better as compared to the first debate he exceeded the
expectations as well.
He kept his base intact by addressing the ideological questions of abortion and
nomination to the Supreme Court more clearly than Kerry.
He provided strong motivation to his supporters and energized them by conveying
to them that Kerry as a "Massachusetts" liberal (unlike Clinton, the Southern
Democrat) is most likely to ruin the country through taxing and spending
Being a wartime incumbent Bush had little else to do than merely last all 15
rounds. Kerry's task was a far more tough one. He was required to wrest a clear
The only way he could have done this was by attacking the President's judgment
and trustworthiness. The former he undertook half heartedly and the latter he
did not even attempt
He could have gone after Bush more aggressively exposing him as an extremist
ideologue who is intellectually lazy to boot. A president who is not only out of
sync with the reality in Iraq and on the economy but who also relies heavily on
his highly unreliable and untrustworthy neoconservative aides.
Kerry's job isn't exactly enviable. Attacking the character of the President is
dangerous and can easily backfire. A less dangerous and far easier proposition
is to let Bush be seen as a somewhat likeable bumbling idiot who is out of touch
with reality and is misled by untrustworthy advisors.
Kerry ought to have adopted a pincer attack strategy. He did question the
President's judgment, ability and stature by comparing him with other wartime
Presidents such as Roosevelt and Eisenhower as I had suggested in a previous
column. He questioned the ethics and the logic of a tax cut during a war. But
the other arm of the pincer - the suggested attack on the character of "Prime
Minister" Cheney and Secretaries Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz- was completely absent.
Kerry's performance sorely lacked any attempt to keep his mass base energized
and motivated. His verbose replies on abortion, and inability to highlight the
disenfranchisement the Florida democratic voters, mostly African Americans
during the last elections, were huge mistakes.
His response to question of violation of Civil Rights and his criticism of the
Patriot Act were among Kerry's finer moments. He has managed to address a major
concern of his liberal constituency. It was shrewd of him to have evoked the
public's fear of the reinstatement of the draft. He seems to have grasped the
need for effective fear mongering if he is to swing the undecided voters in his
Liberal democrats and the well organized antiwar movement have been extremely
disappointed by Kerry's stand on Iraq. They view it as political opportunism.
He can still retrieve the support of this must-win block by condemning the Abu
Gharieb scandal and squarely blaming it on Cheney and Rumsfeld.
As for attracting the motivated Muslim block in the crucial Midwestern States
and in New Jersey where the race is too close to call, Kerry's stand on the
Civil Rights seems to be working. Kerry's campaign has been flooding the
mailboxes of the Muslim leaders with his pronouncement on Civil Rights. If he
could take a leaf out of Bush's script and affirm the idea of an independent
Palestine without backing out of his unequivocal support for Israel, the Muslim
vote can be his for the asking and no damage done to his Jewish support.
For Bush to win the debate he will have to do more of the same. Just don't get
knocked out, look Presidential and sound confident while calling Kerry a true
liberal with the most liberal track record. (Bush, in order to win the debate
will have to repeat his last performance with more of the same. Refuse to be
knocked out, appear and sound confident and sufficiently Presidential and
reiterate that Kerry is a true liberal with an incriminating inescapable track
record as one.
Kerry on the contrary will have to do all that he has not done in the debates
thus far which is:
- Be prepared for the "Massachusetts" liberal tag. Take the "moral highroad" in
response and ask, "Mr. President, is that all you could do, resort to name
calling instead of admitting your mistakes and working striving to bring the
country together in a time of war and weak economic recovery? Four years ago the
country tried to heal its divisions by bestowing you a Presidency that you did
not win. Is this how you respond to the trust and honor the nation gave you?
- Repeatedly paint Bush as a reckless man who is out of touch with reality and
not being truthful with the Americans on Iraq and the economy ( repeatedly
reinforce the image of Bush as a reckless man without a sound knowledge of the
reality in Iraq, a President who has not been truthful with the Americans on
- Highlight the fact that the President's failed Iraq policy has increased and
not reduced the threat of terrorism. He must mention that it was Bush's short
sightedness that enabled Bin Laden to escape and subsequently to recruit more
people and regroup. This will preempt any "October surprise" in the eventuality
that Bin-Ladin is captured or killed before the elections. He must debunk the
Republican propaganda that seventy five percent of Al-Qaeda has been killed or
captured to prove that the President is not leveling with the American public.
- Counter Bush's claims of victory in the Shite Sadr City by reminding that
Sadr militia had agreed to such ceasefires in the past. Preempt similar future
victories in the Sunni held cities by predicting them and by exposing their
temporary nature. Cite Monday's NYT story exploding the myth of "trained" Iraqi
forces coming to the rescue. Emphasize the fact that only 7% of money allotted
by the congress for the rebuilding of Iraq has been utilized. Talk about the
ground realities in Iraq more forcefully.
- Expose the real situation in Afghanistan in greater detail when the President
boasts about the Afghan elections
- Mount and sustain a relentless attack on the President on account of the
economy, employment, education and healthcare in America and enlist his own
plans for the same. To substantiate his claims he can refer the audience to his
- Refute the attack on "Trial lawyer Edwards" with a counter attack on Cheney:
"Senator Edwards is a decent, capable and trustworthy man who has unfailingly
defended the little guy against the insurance companies. He will never mislead
me. He does not have stakes in the oil business and is not an ideologue, so his
advice will be an objective and unbiased one. He will never undermine the State
department and the CIA the way your powerful Vice President Cheney has done. I
have 20 years of experience in both foreign and domestic policy. I will not
depend on others to show me the way. I will seek expert advice but will not
allow any biased or incompetent person to mislead me and the nation. I will not
surround myself with inept ideologues. My team will do me and the nation proud
and give me no reason to hide them from the media and the American public as you
have had to hide your cabinet members."
- Refer to Cheney as" Prime minister" the way Terry McAuliffe does and then
ruthlessly demolish Cheney and Rumsfeld repeatedly asking"Mr. President how
could you let such inept people mislead you and the nation? How could you forget
that ours is a Presidential system that you were elected to run the country and
not be just a titular head? Why could you not have tried emulating the examples
of successful wartime Presidents such as Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and your
own father? Why did you not listen to Secretary Powell and Senators McCain,
Lugar and Hegel? Why did you not listen to your own intelligence Czar on
terrorism"? This will enable Kerry to damage the likeable image of Bush without
risking the ire of voters or evoking any sympathy for him. Comparing and
contrasting is one of the most important ways that the human mind identifies and
chooses, and it will help to lower Bush's stature in the minds of the voters.
Moreover unfavorable comparison with past Presidents, especially his own father
seems to rile and unnerve Bush.
- Exercise fear-mongering of his own on the reinstatement of draft, on the
increasing hatred of America in the world as a result of Bush's policies and on
the worsening economic and healthcare situation in the United States.
- Remember in wartime elections it is the psychology stupid.
Kerry does not seem sufficiently mindful that he is contesting a wartime
election. He must win a two-stage victory in the minds of the voters: first
make them uneasy if not afraid regarding Bush's judgment and trustworthiness and
secondly look and sound calm, reassuring, trustworthy and knowledgeable. He has
won the second stage; it is the first stage that remains to be won. Only then
will the voters be willing to change leadership in the middle of a war. There is
no other way to will the voters into changing the leadership in the middle of
Dr. Muhammad Obed is a physician. He occasionally writes commentary on
political and psychosocial issues.
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