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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, April 29, 2003


attack-dog persona?

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, April 29, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
The problem with playing dirty politics is that it works. Bush successfully portrayed himself as a reformer and McCain as insensitive to cancer patients back during the 2000 GOP primaries. He won North Carolina as a result and ended McCain's bid. Much of the reason Bush was able to successfully pull this off was because his team was able to leverage their attacks, through simple repetition and a fat war chest, into the conventional wisdom.

Kerry is clearly playing by the same rule book. He is targeting Dean with aspersions against his character. Rather than elevate himself into "Presidential" stature compared to his rivals, he is pulling the others down. The goal is to increase his relative fitness for the nomination in the eyes of the voters - and the pattern of attacks (always contracted out to flunkies) is a systematic campaign to solidify that desired perception as conventional wisdom.

An excellent example is the MSNBC article linked above. The tag line to the article reads:

While the other Democratic presidential contenders have refrained so far from attacking each other, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has made himself the Democrat who grabs voters’ attention by slamming his better-known rivals. This week, Dean pounded Rep. Dick Gephardt, deriding his health insurance proposal as “a pie-in-the sky radical revamping of our health care system that has no chance of ever being passed.”

Note that this is factually incorrect - the article was written well after the "UN Veto over National Security" flap that Kerry instigated last time. But worse, the article lays out the thesis of Dean as the rogue rabid candidate in the very beginning. The reader is told what to think up front - and the Dean campaign responses downstream are thus viewed from that perspective, greatly undermining them.

Note that the followup article on MSNBC in response to the military-strength flap has already absorbed that CW. Were this a level playing field, MSNBC would note that Kerry is also playing the role of attack dog - and not just on issues like Dean, but rather a personal attack on Dean's character and fitness for office. Mud, not issues. But instead the article tag reads:

With a televised debate among the nine Democratic presidential contenders coming up this weekend, rivals Howard Dean and John Kerry resumed their fractious debate over foreign policy Monday. Reacting to a statement by Dean that the United States “won’t always have the strongest military,” Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane said the remark “raises serious questions about his capacity to serve as commander in chief.”

Note that Lehane's slander against Dean is given top billing. This confluence of repetition, lavish media spending, and deliberate manipulation of the conventional wisdom is straight out of the Bush-Cheney 2000 playbook. Which leads me to think of a new slogan. "A vote for Kerry is a vote for Bush."


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.