Alex's Outlook

Monday, February 23, 2004

Bush pulls out the long knives (finally) 

I've long been part of the chorus demanding that Bush roll up his sleeves and start throwing dirt, because his "above the fray" attitude has just gotten him mucked again and again by the venomous vituperations of Democrat presidential nominees, especially John Kerry.

Today, Bush apparently threw his failed nonpartisan strategy out the window:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush took the offensive on his re-election campaign Monday, casting Sen. John Kerry as a waffler and warning that the Democrats would raise taxes, expand the government and fail to lead decisively on national security.

Previewing his principal re-election theme, Bush made national security the centerpiece of his revamped re-election speech, explicitly invoking the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He questioned the credentials of the Democrats who want his job.

"The action we take and the decisions we make in this decade will have consequences far into this century," Bush told 1,400 people at a fund-raiser for Republican governors. "If America shows weakness and uncertainty, the world will drift toward tragedy. That will not happen on my watch."

In his 40-minute address, Bush mentioned none of the Democratic presidential candidates by name, but some of his sharpest criticism was unmistakably intended for Kerry, the front-runner.

"The other party's nomination battle is still playing out. The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions," Bush said. "They're for tax cuts and against them. They're for NAFTA and against NAFTA. They're for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. They're in favor of liberating Iraq, and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts." His supportive audience erupted in laughter and applause.

Once Bush begins dishing back what he's getting, his polls should get a little padding, and that should improve more as he begins hitting swing states with strategic ad buys. Kerry's no-holds-barred vituperations are simply begging for retaliation, given his record as perhaps the most unprincipled politician in Washington history. (Now that's an accomplishment.)

Seeing how every single retaliation by the GOP, no matter how lukewarm, "impugns Kerry's patriotism," Kerry seems more than a little defensive about his paper trail in the Senate. Every time he brags about his three scratches in Vietnam, he only cheapens it even more. What is so revealing about Kerry is not his bravery in Vietnam, but rather his wearing his medals on his sleeve as an entitlement to inflict character assassination on Bush and receive no retaliation at the same time.


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