As is already widely blogged, today's Boston Globe reports that John Kerry's recently released war records show nothing new, except records of praise from the some of the same Swift Boat Pond Scum who mounted that despicable campaign after the Democratic Convention. So why did Kerry stonewall the press in August 2004 when releasing these records would have easily quelled the "controversy"? The official explanation is that Kerry didn't want to give the Swift Boat Liars the satisfaction of forcing Kerry's hand. My hunch is that Bob Shrum and co. focus-grouped the Swift Boat stuff, found the focus group folks saying that they dislike negative advertising and figured Kerry'd be better off sticking to the "issues", like health care tax credits, rather than prolong the this obvious bullshit. To be fair to the Kerry campaign, this strategy of sticking to the gameplan sounded legitimate at the time. They figured that the press would fact-check this stuff and dismiss it. The major papers did eviscerate the Swift Boat Liars, but that wasn't enough. What the Kerry campaign didn't figure, but should have, is that cable news and talk radio are driving political conversation, and let's just say these folks don't have much use for actual facts. So today we learned that all this time, Kerry had the H-bomb to drop on these guys, but didn't. This restraint -- or rather, this mush-headed faith in the media and the attention span/bullshit detector of the American populace -- coupled with the focus-group-tested "all positive" Democratic convention, stalled Kerry's momentum. Remember, soon after Kerry picked Edwards, Bush looked for all the world like a guy destined to lose by 100 electoral votes. The game was lost early in the third quarter, when Kerry couldn't counteract the negative spin and left himself open to the Rethug sliming at the GOP convention.
I don't think Kerry ran an awful campaign overall, but he did make some serious mistakes in the dog days of summer. It changed the complexion of the campaign, keeping Kerry in a defensive posture. That might've proved to be the difference. When will the Democrats learn that you can't negotiate with the right-wing, you just have to annihilate them?