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Commentary :: Government & Elections

How Can Kerry Beat Bush? Just the Facts, Man

If John Kerry is looking for a sure-fire way to fire George Bush and send him on his way, it’s simple: spread the truth about Dubya’s truly horrid record. For more details, read on.
You've got to hand it to the Republicans (if they haven't taken it already): they're aces at playing the fear card. According to an Associated Press poll as reported by Will Lester, "Americans today are as fearful of becoming a victim of terrorism as they are of losing their job or having their home burglarized." This is also about the same percentage of folks scared of being forced to watch Madonna in “Swept Away? (or even “Shanghai Surprise?), a truly frightening statistic.

Terrifying the electorate, though, is only the first tine of a three-pronged GOP plan of attack for the current presidential campaign, a scheme informally known as "Fear, Look Over Here, and Smear." The malevolent Karl Rove, of course, is its devious deviser.

In addition to the Bushies constantly yelling "Boo!" while making scary faces, the other two elements of the GOP's nasty agenda, of course, are misdirection and slander, two items with which I unfortunately personally became very familiar during my thankfully brief but oh-so-instructional second marriage, a pairing that was doomed from the start, at least according to all of my so-called friends who didn't say anything at the time but couldn't wait to way-too enthusiastically tell me what they thought once the divorce was final, which really wasn't helpful at all but only ended up ticking me off and making me feel, like, even worse. Man, why do people do that?

Well, okay, so anyway, fortunately for Americans, there's a simple way for John Kerry to counteract his opposition's churlish charges: Disseminate the truth, consistently and forcefully. More on that in a bit, but right now: a little closer look at the Bush campaign's mendacious machinations.

The fear factor first: This GOP gambit of scaring hell out of Americans to convince them only a vote for George Bush will keep them safe from the terrorists hiding under their rugs and in their refrigerators has actually been ongoing since right after 9/11. Never say the shameless Rove doesn't recognize a prime exploitation opportunity when he sees one; then again, he's probably the only sub-human alive who could somehow twistingly promote the occurrence of the most atrocious attack on U.S. soil as the primary reason for retaining the very people under whose somnambulant noses it happened in the first place.

The second stage of the Rove strategy—misdirection—could be no more evident than in how the GOP and its minions (see: Swift Boat Vets Against Truth) keep throwing lie-encrusted bones toward the Kerryites to see if they will go fetch, thereby diverting the Kerry campaign from tearing into the one, big, juicy treat that holds the key to their candidate's success: Bush's file, stamped in big red letters, "Open Secret: Utter Failure."

This brings us to the third and final phase of Rove's crass and classless curriculum, the one I wish to explore fullest: slander, which, during this campaign open season, shall amazingly involve impugning Kerry's patriotism, and by extension, that of anyone who supports him. The GOP is about to paint Kerry as un-American (if it hasn't already by the time this is published) for his anti-war activities after he returned from Vietnam, specifically his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971.

I've read Kerry's testimony—all 29 pages of it, and am thoroughly impressed. Throughout his appearance, Kerry fields tough questions and provides tough answers, all in a very annoying accent straight from some prep school somewhere that specializes in very annoying accents.

The transcript shows a highly intelligent, articulate, compassionate, patriotic man who has thought through complex issues to which he offers sensible solutions. He wants his fellow soldiers home now. He wants them cared for "because so many . . . have returned as quadriplegics and amputees, and they lie forgotten in Veterans' Administration hospitals . . ." He discusses soldiers' anger about how the fighting in Vietnam, essentially a "civil war," has instead been packaged as "the mystical war against communism," and how the troops have seen "firsthand how money from American taxes [has been] used for a corrupt [South Vietnamese] dictatorial regime."

Kerry is rightly worried about the future of a troubled America: "I don't see another system other than democracy, but democracy has to remain responsive," yet is doing his utmost to work within the system to help fix it. He also addresses racism in America, unprompted—not once, but several times.

This is a man who deeply loves his country and is extremely pained at what its young citizens are being asked to do: die for nothing but political gain and face-saving.

This is anything but un-American; in fact, I would say it is the epitome of patriotism: speaking out, especially when it is unpopular to do so, about what one sees as the destructive policies of one's country. He does this not to bring America down, but rather (or rahther, as a young Kerry would have very annoyingly said) to help improve the system and people's lives (not to mention helping just plain save them).

Was Kerry's appearance before the committee self-serving, as some of his critics assert? Perhaps on some level, it was, but self-interest plainly was not his overriding motivation, though it is possible, I guess, that even at that time he may have had a desire to someday become president.

But what's wrong with that?

Why wouldn't I want a guy who's been grooming himself for years to occupy the highest office in the land? Isn't that one of the primary American dreams—perhaps the main one, behind appearing on Oprah—to become president someday? Frankly, I'd much prefer someone in the White House who has intelligently prepared himself to get there over some underachiever whose rich, good 'ol boy pals of Dad, after knockin' back a few after a hard day of shootin' jack rabbits out at the ranch, look over at junior nodding off in the corner and say, "Hey, there, little feller. How's about us runnin' you fer president and once y'all get in, you kin return the favor by openin' up them treasury doors fer us?"

Especially if this handpicked, politically tone-deaf, intellectually-challenged front man has trained for the role primarily by partying down (and snorting up) as much as possible. (In fairness, I am not totally innocent of such behavior myself during a certain time in my life, but I'm not running for president, nor will I accept my party's nomination.)

In typical Rove fashion, though, Bush is touted as Mr. Super American and Kerry as unpatriotic malcontent. Call me crazy, but I've always kind of thought an American exercising his or her First Amendment right of free speech—as did Kerry before the Senate committee and in his tireless efforts to help Vietnam vets—is as basically American as it gets. If only more citizens of the U.S. were as well-informed and involved in bettering our country as Kerry demonstrated he was that day, we'd all be a lot better off.

What, then, in my book, would be un-American? Funny you should ask, 'cause I've just happened to put a list together. Not that any of these things would ever occur, mind you, but I would think it un-American if an administration were to, say: attack a non-threatening country under false pretenses in a cynical bid to secure power and profits; stand by while business cronies jumped on the backs of, oh, at least a thousand dead American soldiers and tens of thousands of likewise-deceased innocents to engage in as much war profiteering as possible; lie to Americans by telling them they would receive a phony "average" $1,083 in tax savings and that the new tax cuts would help the "vast majority" of lower-income citizens when in fact the vast majority of the benefits would go to the wealthiest Americans; compile record deficits, goosed considerably by those very same tax cuts; undermine democracy by appointing a House majority leader to push through an incredibly sleazy mid-term redistricting in an unabashed grab for more congressional seats; direct the Environmental Protection Agency to falsely inform residents of an American city the size of, say, New York, that their air was safe to breathe within days after a devastating attack there; deliberately withhold cost information from Congress about legislation involving prescription drug benefits until the law was passed by the barest of margins; fail to produce a coherent, intelligent U.S. energy policy, thereby unforgivably hampering America's national security; uncover a CIA agent and then cover up the whole sordid episode; seek "legal" ways to engage in torture; choose religious doctrine over scientific research; "disappear" American citizens; and just generally treat the Constitution like one big sheet of Charmin®.

I came up with a lot more, too. I realize these are wild examples that stretch the very bounds of believability, and understand it's hard to imagine an administration doing even just one of these things. However, on the incredibly off chance it were to happen here someday, then that is what I would truly consider to be un-American.

But, really, testifying before a Senate committee at its invitation on how to best stop the hideous Vietnam War? If this were a test, I think I'd have to circle that one (or check the little box, or fill in the circle completely with a number 2 pencil; in other words, I would follow the instructions) as being unlike the others.

Here's my advice, then, to Kerry: Reach down into your belly and re-ignite the fire that drove you in your younger days. Get pissed—very, very pissed. Then, get even—very, very even, or even more even than that, even. If you need a little help finding some anger, there are a few million of us out here who can help you out with that.

And then beat the drum, non-stop and quite loudly, on Bush's dismal record, lie by lie; after all, it could hardly be a bigger target. Right after you roll out each falsehood, present its countering truth. Offer your plan on what you will do in each of these areas as president. Make it snappy, make it easily understandable, and make it your mantra. It's a waste of valuable time trying to defend against incessant GOP dung balls, and with the Republicans' beetle-like operatives, it's guaranteed the s--ts will just keep on comin.'

Truth is the tool—a veritable wrecking ball, really—by which the Rovian Republicans' institution of scare tactics, sleight-of-hand, and defamation can be dismantled. Now is the time, Mr. Kerry, for you to wield that implement skillfully and relentlessly.

Copyright © 2004 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.

Published originally in Online Journal.

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