If Iraq's in such bad shape, why isn't Bush?
That indeed is the $64,000 question, and I'm not going to pretend like I know something that every pundit and politician doesn't, but I'm going to throw this idea out there.
PIPA has a new report out on Iraq and on attitudes surrounding it. Here's an excerpt:
According to a new PIPA/Knowledge Networks poll, a majority of Americans (57%) continue to believe that before the war Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, including 20% who believe that Iraq was directly involved in the September 11 attacks. Forty-five percent believe that evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found. Sixty percent believe that just before the war Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction (38%) or a major program for developing them (22%).
Despite statements by Richard Clarke, David Kay, Hans Blix and others, few Americans perceive most experts as saying the contrary. Only 15% said they are hearing “experts mostly agree Iraq was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda,” while 82% either said that “experts mostly agree Iraq was providing substantial support” (47%) or “experts are evenly divided on the question” (35%). Only 34% said they thought most experts believe Iraq did not have WMD, while 65% said most experts say Iraq did have them (30%) or that experts are divided on the question (35%).
So why does such a large percentage of the public have such a misshapen view of the pre-war Iraq situation when even the networks have recently been hammering the President on his penchant for, shall we say, dodging questions like he dodged flight status physicals?
There are no doubt a number of reasons. Right-wing radio has managed to convince most of its audience that anything not-Rush is part of an evil liberal cabal out to abort your children and use the stem cells to turn themselves into Godess-Feminazis. That audience automatically discounts anything said on tv by not-Fox and lumps the rest of the channels into this amalgam of "liberal media" that, as we all know, doesn't exist.
But that's not the whole problem. In truth, right-wing radio and Fox News only affects a small percentage of the viewing/listening public. They're a loud and vehement percentage, but they're still a small percentage. It is true that other media outlets, most notably CNN, have been so shell-shocked by the success of Fox News that they've been chasing Fox that they're chasing after, re-mouthing copy distributed by the administration instead of doing real reporting so they don't miss the story. They've done a better job as of late, but still, those percentages noted above don't lie.
So here's my theory. Part of the problem has to do with our recent strategy of allowing the Republicans to dig their own graves. I've been a proponent of it myself. Guess what? It ain't working. And we shouldn't be surprised. Bush I tried that in 1992 and look what it got him.
So it's time to do something different. We have to be the ones spotlighted in the news. Right now, Iraq is going to hell, but the news is still about Bush, and in the long run, that works to his advantage. Regardless of whether the news out of Iraq is good or bad, Bush is dominating the news cycle--period. We have to change that.
So whether he likes it or not, Kerry has to become an attack dog. His actions of late are reminiscent of the DLC strategies that served us so well in 2002--run to the middle, don't offend anyone, and lose. If we try to win by not pissing anyone off, we'll do neither. This is no time for the faint of heart.
When Bush dodges a question, Kerry needs to be on a tv screen somewhere demanding an answer--and not a Kerry spokesman either. Kerry himself. Spokesmen don't get cross-network coverage; the candidate does.
When Bush or one of his toadies tries to spin some more bad news out of Iraq, Kerry needs to be on a tv screen somewhere telling it bluntly, and putting the blame squarely where it belongs--on Bush. I realize the temptation to move blame to more specific targets like Wolfowitz or Cheney, but we must resist. Bush is the guy at the top--he's the target.
Kerry's not the candidate I wanted, mostly because I don't think he was the best choice to fight this election the way we have to fight it to win, but he's the candidate I've got, so I'm going to fight it out with him. But in our eagerness to watch the opposition go up in flames, we've stopped attacking--that's bad strategy. We can't win this thing by sitting back and hoping the Republicans will lose.