Having CNN on while paying some bills has been a depressing experience. I probably should have been watching the Cartoon Channel, though the talking conservative heads at the Republican Convention certainly are equally amusing. I missed Zell Miller’s speech, but saw enough clips to realize how utterly mean-spirited and misleading he was. One commentator on CNN had a nice line: “With that speech he put ‘zealot’ back in ‘Zell.’”
Laurel likes to believe that American voters will be influenced much more by facts than by rhetoric. I disagree. The hard-core voters on each end of the political spectrum clearly already have made their minds up. The independents and undecideds in the middle are the ones being fought for. And I think lots of them are looking for a candidate they intuitively feel comfortable with, who they trust, whose words are commensurate with their actions.
This is why Kerry had better get cracking. Heads. Republican heads. Bush/Cheney heads. Kerry and other figurehead Democrats have been so passive lately, it’s pitiful. What happened to the war hero who heads right toward the enemy firing at him, beaches his boat, and shoots the guy dead? The way Kerry has been acting, I can’t blame those who believe his war exploits have been much exaggerated. If Kerry is so brave, why is he so reluctant to fight back against the Republican attacks?
Joe Conahan of the New York Observer made some comments last night on CNN that echoed thoughts I’ve been having. “If Kerry can’t defend himself,” Conahan said, “then people aren’t going to believe that he can defend the country.” Right on. After the Democratic Convention, Kerry had a chance to build on his snappy salute, “John Kerry reporting for duty,” and the whole band of brothers “I will be a strong commander-in-chief” thing.
But what happened? Kerry gets hit with a vicious, lying, under-handed attack by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He doesn’t respond. And then he doesn’t respond some more. While Kerry is ragging on Bush for sitting dumb-founded for seven minutes after being told the country is under attack, Kerry does the same thing—but not just for a few minutes, for days.
Consciously or unconsciously, swing voters are thinking: “Would Kerry react equally slowly if our country is attacked again? Is he waiting for an international coalition to form before he hits back against the Swift Boat Veterans?”
When he does respond, the Kerry campaign sends Max Cleland down to Texas in his wheelchair to try to deliver a letter to the Western White House. Whoopee. Wow. Get attacked and send a letter. Now, that’s how a sensitive war is waged. Maybe Bin Laden will surrender if a “Please turn yourself in” email is sent to Al Qaeda web sites.
Kerry still has a chance to turn things around. But a marked change of direction has to begin tomorrow, right after Bush’s acceptance speech (and Hurricane Frances) hit the nation’s front pages. As a strong Kerry supporter I want to support a strong candidate. Kerry shouldn’t get angry. He should simply get even: set the record straight, expose the lies.
Watch a few episodes of the “Sopranos” tonight, John. Then go out and hit ‘em with your best Tony S. imitation. A baseball bat to the knees or the cranium is a wonderful way of changing minds. Show the country that you know how to swing the hardwood. Metaphorically speaking, of course. But not too metaphorically.