Tags: Mad | Hell

Mad as Hell

Wednesday, 01 September 2004 12:00 AM

They are worried, having watched as another August smear campaign, full of lies and half-truths, takes its toll in the polls.

They are frustrated, mostly at the Kerry campaign, for naively believing that just because all the newspapers and news organizations that investigated the charges of the Swift Boat assassins found them to be full of lies and half-truths, they wouldn't take their toll. The word on the street is that Kerry himself was ready to fire back the day the story broke, but that his campaign, believing the charges would blow over if they ignored them, counseled restraint.

But most of all, activist Democrats are angry. As one who lived through an August like this, 16 years ago - replete with rumors that were lies, which the Bush campaign claimed they had nothing to do with and later admitted they had planted - I'm angry, too. I've been to this movie. I know how it works. Lies move numbers.

Remember the one about Dukakis suffering from depression after he lost the governorship? (Dukakis not crazy, more at 11.) We lost six points over that lie, planted by George W.'s close friend and colleague in the 1988 campaign, Lee Atwater. Or how about the one about Kitty Dukakis burning a flag at an antiwar demonstration, another out-and-out lie, which the Bush campaign denied having anything to do with, except that it turned out to have come from a United States senator via the Republican National Committee? Lee Atwater later apologized to me for that, too, on his deathbed. Did I mention that Lee's wife is connected to the woman running the Swift Boat campaign?

Never again, we said then.

Not again, Democrats are saying now.

What do you do, Democrats keep asking each other.

The answer is not pretty, but everyone knows what it is.

In 1988, in the days before the so-called independent groups, the candidate called the shots. To Michael Dukakis' credit, depending on how you look at it, he absolutely refused to get into the gutter, even to answer the charges. His theory, like that of some on the Kerry staff, was that answering such charges would only elevate them, give them more attention than they deserved. He thought the American people wanted to hear about issues, not watch a mud-wrestling match. In theory, he was right. In practice, the sad truth is that smears work - that if you throw enough mud, some of it is bound to stick.

You can't just answer the charges. You can't just say it ain't so.

You have to fight fire with fire, mud with mud, dirt with dirt.

The trouble with Democrats, traditionally, is that we're not mean enough. Dukakis wasn't. I wasn't. I don't particularly like destroying people. I got into politics because of issues, not anger. But too much is at stake to play by Dukakis rules, and lose again.

That is the conclusion Democrats have reached. So watch out. Millions of dollars will be on the table. And there are plenty of choices for what to spend it on.

I'm not promising pretty.

What will it be?

Will it be the three, or is it four or five, drunken driving arrests that Bush and Cheney, the two most powerful men in the world, managed to rack up? (Bush's Texas record has been sealed. Now why would that be? Who seals a perfect driving record?)

After Vietnam, nothing is ancient history, and Cheney is still drinking. What their records suggest is not only a serious problem with alcoholism, which Bush but not Cheney has acknowledged, but also an even more serious problem of judgment. Could Dick Cheney get a license to drive a school bus with his record of drunken driving? (I can see the ad now.) A job at a nuclear power plant? Is any alcoholic ever really cured? So why put him in the most stressful job in the world, with a war going south, a thousand Americans already dead and control of weapons capable of destroying the world at his fingertips.

It has been said that in the worst of times, Kissinger gave orders to the military not to obey Nixon if he ordered a first strike. What if Bush were to fall off the wagon? Then what? Has America really faced the fact that we have an alcoholic as our president?

Or how about Dead Texans for Truth, highlighting those who served in Vietnam instead of the privileged draft-dodging president, and ended up as names on the wall instead of members of the Air National Guard. I'm sure there are some mothers out there who are still mourning their sons, and never made that connection. It wouldn't be so hard to find them.

Or maybe it will be Texas National Guardsmen for Truth, who can explain exactly what George W. Bush was doing while John Kerry was putting his life on the line. So far, all W. can do is come up with dental records to prove that he met his obligations. Perhaps with money on the table, or investigators on their trail, we will learn just what kind of wild and crazy things the president was doing while Kerry was saving a man's life, facing enemy fire and serving his country.

Or could it be George Bush's Former Female Friends for Truth. A forthcoming book by Kitty Kelly raises questions about whether the president has practiced what he preaches on the issue of abortion. As Larry Flynt discovered, a million dollars loosens lips. Are there others to be loosened?

Are you shocked? Not fair? Who said anything about fair? Remember President Dukakis? He was very fair. Now he teaches at Northeastern University. John Kerry has been very fair in dealing with the Swift Boat charges. That's why so many of my Democrat friends have decided to stop talking to the campaign, and start putting money together independently.

The arrogant little Republican boys who have been strutting around New York this week, claiming that they have this one won, would do well to take a step back. It could be a long and ugly road to November.

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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They are worried, having watched as another August smear campaign, full of lies and half-truths, takes its toll in the polls. They are frustrated, mostly at the Kerry campaign, for naively believing that just because all the newspapers and news organizations that...
Mad,Hell
1030
2004-00-01
Wednesday, 01 September 2004 12:00 AM
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