February 17, 2004

Dueling Bios

Following on the heels of this post, James Joyner posts on a Charles Krauthammer piece, which again deals with the issue of the biographies of Bush and Kerry circa 1970-1973.

While Kerry’s Viet Nam service record is an asset to his campaign, I think that there is far too much being made of it at this stage of the campaign—an artifact, I would argue, of the fact the Bush v. Kerry part of the campaign hasn’t really started yet.

Sure, if the campaign is fought over Kerry’s stint in the Navy v. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard, then the contest is over before it has begun. However, while biographies are of significance, there are different sections in each book. The bottom line is going to be, once the campaign actually gets moving (it moves slowly at the moment, and really won’t fully launch until after Super Tuesday, when Kerry should move from “front-runner” to “presumptive nominee” by dint of delegate counts) that the issue hand is not Navy v. Air National Guard, but whether or not the nation wishes to fire or re-hire, President Bush. The biographical entry that is most important to Bush at this stage will be the one about the last four years, not about what happened thirty years ago.

And as I have noted before, I think that one of the main reasons the Democrats are interested in the “AWOL” story is because they want to catch Bush in a lie, not because they think that they will win if, in fact, Bush didn’t serve as much as he should have served. The goal (or one of them, as I think there are several) is to find a way to attack Bush’s post-91 record on the issue of veracity.

I still maintain that, assuming that the economy continues on its current path, that the issue will be over whether Kerry can sell the idea that he will make us safer in the way he would pursue foreign policy. And Krauthammer is right, there has not yet been any serious articulation from any Democrat on this score. And he is further correct that that was the mistake they made in 2002, and instead of evaluating their message instead claimed that they “didn’t get their message out.” Kerry runs the risk of the same problem if he can’t find a way to convince the country that he would be better at prosecuting the war on terror (which, btw, he doesn’t think is a war). Just saying “I will be nicer when asking the Germans and French for help” won’t cut it. Nor will vague promises to be less arrogant and more multilateral.

Posted by Steven Taylor at February 17, 2004 10:35 AM | TrackBack
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