Thursday, September 30, 2004

Pre-debate babble

Quick thoughts:

* Folks are advising that Kerry should break the stupid debate rules and directly question Bush. Good idea, except there's a line between aggressive questioning and desperate-looking attacks. Can we count on Kerry to strike the right tone? Or more importantly, can we trust the feckless Democratic surrogates to spin Kerry's aggressiveness in his favor? I'm doubtful, but I agree he's gotta go after Bush.

* Conventional wisdom says Kerry needs a knock out punch. I disagree. Given the latest poll numbers and the data on the persuadables, it's clear his recent troubles have to do with the GOP's relentless flip-flop/weak meme taking hold. How to counter? By appearing to be a strong man of conviction. Kerry simply needs to be assertive, concise and presidential. In past debates in the primaries, Kerry surprised me with his commanding, authoritative presence. If he can evoke that Kerry, he'll be fine. (And I see that Noam Scheiber of TNR just made the same point here.)

* How to answer the million dollar "Would you rather have Saddam still in power?" question. Last week, I wrote a Daily Kos diary on this, and now, we have Scheiber making the same point (great minds, etc.). The answer should be: "I would've caught bin Laden because I would've concentrated on eliminating al Qaida. I would've been tougher on North Korea and Iran, so that they wouldn't be developing a nuclear weapon. Etc."

The ever-cautious Kerry hadn't played the bin Laden card, likely for fear of an October surprise. But at this stage in the game, it's clear that, if bin Laden's captured, Bush wins, so it really makes no difference whether Kerry brings it up or not. In that case, why not make the biggest post-9/11 blunder on the War on Terror (switching enemies in mid-stream) be a focal point of attacks?

* Also, JFK, I know you've been doing better, but please do not pander to idiotic swing voters. Just be aggressive and spend your energies trying to win the spin war, and swing voters will naturally gravitate towards where conventional wisdom lies.