Texas -- My, we are off to an elegant start here,
First, we have John Kerry in a classic open-mike
gaffe referring to his Republican opponents as
"crooked" and "lying." While this was not a high
point in the history of political rhetoric, Kerry's
refusal to apologize for the overhead remark promptly
solidified his base.
"Hey, he's got more guts than I thought," said
many a pleased Democrat, convinced the Bushies
are all liars and crooks. So he is now
free to go forth and talk of health care.
Naturally, the Republicans postured in comically
pretend outrage and demanded an apology. The indictment
brought back happy memories of the Bush open-mike
gaffe in 2000, in which he called a reporter "an
asshole" and then refused to apologize. But we
are now on Election Year Double Standard Time,
a time zone in which your side lies constantly
and my side is noble, true and brave -- except
for those moments when the other side's despicable
conduct forces our side to get tough, too.
On the Republican side, we are already seeing
the first negative ads from the Bushies, and they
are indeed misleading attacks on Kerry's credentials
on defense and the military. Of the numerous misrepresentations
in the ads, I find particularly annoying the claim
that Kerry voted to cut combat pay for soldiers.
In fact, as the public record abundantly proves,
it was the Bush administration that proposed to
cut combat pay for soldiers in both Afghanistan
and Iraq by $75 a month for imminent danger pay
and by another $150 for family separation allowance.
The administration backed down because of public
But we should expect negative ads to be misleading:
The question in politics is always: "Are they
working?" Apparently. Kerry has fired back by
somberly deploring negative ads -- that could
become a helpful theme, but it's rarely an exciting
strategy, unless you do an ad saying, "Liar, liar,
pants on fire," which somehow doesn't seem dignified
enough. Besides, Ben Cohen of Vermont is already
toting a large statue of Bush with his pants on
fire around the country. (see www.PantsOnFire.net)
Then we had the incident of Kerry saying more
leaders (abroad) are rooting for his election
and the hilarious reaction by Bushies pretending
to be outraged and demanding that he name names.
Now that was splendid political farce, and anyone
who failed to appreciate it is just not going
to have a good time this year.
It is so obvious foreign leaders favor anyone
over Bush, it's painful. A year ago, I quoted
Fareed Zakaria's observation in Newsweek: "I've
been all over the world in the last year, and
almost every country I've visited felt humiliated
by this administration." Jorge Casteneda, the
former foreign minister of Mexico, told him: "Most
officials in Latin countries today are not anti-American
types. We have studied in the United States or
worked there. We like and understand America.
But we find it extremely irritating to be treated
with utter contempt." The only foreign leader
I can think of who would prefer Bush to Kerry
is Ariel Sharon, to whom Bush has been perfectly
The problem is that George W. Bush has truly bad
manners. At the recent Summit of the Americas
summit in Mexico, he could not have possibly been
more visibly bored. The bullying that led up to
the Iraq War -- particularly ugly in the case
of Turkey, which will come back to haunt us --
made him unpopular all over the world.
But there were the Bushies, haughtily demanding
that Kerry back up his statement as though it
were not painfully obvious to every dimwit in
the nation. And that, in turn, led to the unfortunate
demand from President Bush that Kerry ought to
back up what he said with facts. Ooops.
Dick Cheney piped right up as though he had any
credibility left, and Bush's press guy Scott McClellan
capped it off by saying, "Either he is straightforward
and states who they are, or the only conclusion
one can draw is that he is making it up to attack
This, of course, brought up the entire litany
of lies, deceptions and misleading by the administration,
leading to many a happy reprise from the left.
California Rep. Henry Waxman's office helpfully
located 237 whoppers on Iraq alone from major
Bush players: That's www.house.gov/reform/min,
in case anyone needs a handy reference.
On the other hand, nice opportunity for Karl Rove
to play to American xenophobia -- fear of foreigners.
In fact, there's a nice little sleeper issue developing
on the right: a big anti-immigration stink, partly
set off by Bush's own green card plan, which is
the reason he's backed down off that. Nothing
like an election year to remind us how complicated
this country is.
So far, I still think the most striking thing
about this election is how united the Democrats
are. I've never seen anything like it. On the
other hand, as E.J. Dionne notes in his new book,
"Stand Up Fight Back," it's not enough to fight
hard. You have to fight smart.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists,
visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Posted: March 22, 2004