Our Man Makes The Case for Kerry's Haughtiness

09.16.2004 | David L. Steinhardt | National Affairs | 5 Comments
Alice Roosevelt, daughter of Teddy, demolished Thomas Dewey, the 1944 opponent of her cousin Franklin, by comparing the pencil-line mustached Republican to “the little man on the wedding cake.” The image stuck and Governor Dewey lost two consecutive presidential elections. It’s time to re-imagine another GOP presidential contender so that he too can lose the popular vote for the second consecutive time.

No proxy can do it for Kerry this time, however; he’ll have to do it himself, at the debates — with ridicule, derision, and a full-out, unapologetic dressing down of the Commander-in-Chief.

Terry McAuliffe, chair of the Democratic National Committee, couldn’t get a cat elected mouse catcher. In the Democrats’ glee to be as flush with cash as the GOP, money-man McAuliffe has been given far too much power, leading to July’s tepid national convention at which the party of the people did its best to be inconspicuous in the limelight.

Not that candidate Kerry’s own team shows any greater competence. How dense must a Democrat be not to recognize that its core voters would be energized by bashing the bad guys, particularly when the opposition is taking away overtime pay from workers, gutting protections that keep them safe, and chasing good jobs out of the country? And that’s not to mention drafting reservists and National Guards troops, many of them police and firemen badly needed at home, cutting hazard pay and other benefits for veterans, and bungling wars fought with far too few soldiers.

(And for anyone who has swallowed one bit of the murmured charges that recently released portions of the record of Bush’s own National Guard service were forged: They’re not. The White House isn’t challenging their authenticity, which is a good clue. Can you recreate these documents using MS Word? No, you can’t. Could IBM typewriters create such documents in the early 1970s? Yes, they could. The raised “th” so often cited as evidence of forgery actually appears in earlier Texas Air National Guard documents released by the White House, albeit in a different typeface, but IBM type elements are interchangeable. The documents are real and show Lt. Bush to have been a shirker who committed offenses that would have gotten a soldier without connections sent immediately to active duty.)

Here’s the script for Kerry, then, assuming Bush will only agree to two debates:

Debate One: Ridicule, with liberal doses of derision. As Alice Roosevelt proved, diminishing a candidate can have devastating effect.

John Kerry is a naturally arrogant, dismissive snob. (I had a conversation with him only once, 12 years ago, during which he not once actually condescended to look at me). Americans like candidates to have big personalities, though, so Kerry should be himself with gusto and treat the president as he actually feels about him, with barely masked contempt, peppered by incredulity.

Example: “Mr. President, you and your spokespeople explain that you skipped your physical while you were in the Texas Air National Guard because you had a good reason for doing so. Does that represent your policy as Commander-in-Chief, that lieutenants should choose which of their military obligations to fulfill? Because I was a lieutenant in the US Navy, and, as it happened, we were expected to fulfill all our obligations.”

Example: “Mr. President, your suggestions for Social Security privatization are even more ludicrous than the two-minus-one-equals-five ideas of President Reagan that your father so aptly called ‘voodoo economics’ — ideas that President Clinton had to spend eight years digging us out of. In fact, Social Security is sound for decades, but would be bankrupt in five years if even a small portion of your proposal were made law. I’m aghast at your cynicism in reintroducing this concept during the campaign after you so wisely avoided ever acting on it during your presidency.”

Would haughtiness and arrogance work? You bet it would. Americans love contact sports. Republican spinmeisters would proclaim themselves shocked and outraged at Kerry’s disrespectful tone, but pundits — sharks themselves — would feed on the blood. Who knows? Some reporters might even be moved to actually consider the validity of Kerry’s remarks.

Debate Two: Humiliation

This time the president will come armed with zingers of his own for Kerry, whose undistinguished senatorial record is an easy target. But instead of going for laughs, Kerry will go for the jugular. The Bostonian’s grander-than-thou stature will serve him best if he treats the president as the pipsqueak he really is.

Example: “Mr. President, have you no concept how catastrophically you’ve bungled this historic opportunity to galvanize the nations of the earth against the once small numbers of fanatical terrorists who targeted us on 9/11? But instead you seized upon 9/11 to promote your long-held agenda of war against Saddam Hussein, while leaving our essential business in Afghanistan unfinished. Now America’s standing in the world is the lowest it’s ever been, while you continue to empty the federal treasury into the pockets of many of the same people already profiting from your wars. Yet you demand the ultimate sacrifice from soldiers whose wages and benefits you simultaneously skimp on. Shame on you, Mr. President, for asking no sacrifice from the Americans most able to afford it, while conscripting soldiers from amongst the ranks of the first responders the nation needs most desperately.”

Of course, Senator Kerry must not risk being so contemptuous as to diminish the office he seeks, but a disgusted berating would be just the ticket to reduce Bush in the eyes of the American people to the point where they’d feel ashamed, or at least embarrassed, to vote for him.

Americans respect guts and it takes guts to ridicule, then humiliate, a sitting president. But it’s appropriate and fair for his opponent to do so, and it would win Kerry the election.



Mr. Steinhardt, I implore you, please do the world a favor: take a sabbatical leave from New Partisan, and go to work for the Kerry campaign today. I am honestly beginning to wonder whether his staff has been infiltrated by the enemy. As you say (and Mr. Marchman pointed out elsewhere on this site), how dense must one be not to make the painfully obvious point, that Bush is a miserable failure by any conceivable measure, in every conceivable area.
09.16.2004 | KC
If Carville and Begala can continue at CNN, why should I have to leave my august aerie at New Partisan?

Feel free to call him and recommend me. The Senator must have lost my number.
09.17.2004 | David L Steinhardt
Your parody of a tedious left wing whinger is spot on.
09.17.2004 | norman normal
As evidence mounts that CBS aired phony documents (which I did not believe because the contents were so clearly true--as Lt. Killian's secretary confirms--and because CBS News' typical procedures in such stories are so stringent, but now revealed to have been skipped), I want to first cop to my unfounded claim that the documents are genuine, while second, continuing to remind all that the issue with Bush's National Guard service isn't CBS News' procedures, but whether the president continues to lie to this day that his conduct in the service was honorable when even the available records cannot support that.
09.20.2004 | David L Steinhardt

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12.6.2010 | Layer D. Craig

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