Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jane Hamsher on Public Relations

Advice for Kerry and orders to the party:
First of all — I don't care if John Kerry was eating live babies on TV, one week out from an election you do not repeat GOP talking points. Ever. It makes you look like a big pussy who can't stand up to the Republicans, even when they're playing from an exceptionally weak hand on an issue you own.
Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, no?

Of course, that's exactly how Kerry responded to the first calls for him to apologize, and made the anger deeper and louder and longer. I prefer Hugh's First Rule of Holes: "When you're in a hole, stop digging." Kerry's indignant and defiant claim that he wasn't going to apologize to anyone, dug himself about one or two extra levels of underground parking. What his excuses and apologies can't make up for is that the "joke" is a very old one among the college-educated elite of the Vietnam era. I've heard it before, in the 1970s. That's why he "botched" it, he had intended to morph it into a personal insult toward President Bush, but force of habit led him to repeat the orginal formula.

And his failure to jump on it and correct it quickly made this message from the troops possible and infinitely more effective. This was Kerry's finger-wagging moment to match Bill Clinton's meltdown on Fox News Sunday. He wasn't reacting to what he had actually said, which was not what he wanted to; he was reacting to the Swift Boat vets who responded to his attempt to cast himself as a proud war hero, when he had actually launched his political career slandering most of his fellow servicemen in Vietnam. He's the one who stepped up with the phoney salute and "reported for duty," just asking for his testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971 to be pulled out and played over and over.

So, keep on getting your PR advice from Fire Dog Lake, John. You're the gift that keeps on giving.

Update: Mark Steyn agrees that this was a Freudian slip--Kerry said what he was really thinking:
I find the . . . line . . . that Senator Kerry was making a joke about Bush, highly implausible. If you talk to Democrats of the middle-class and upper-middle-class and (in John Heinz Kerry’s case) the neo-Gulf-emir-class, you’ll have heard the same thing a thousand times: these poor fellows in Iraq, they’re only there because they’re too poverty-stricken and ill-educated so they couldn’t become Senators and New York Times reporters and tenured Queer Studies professors like normal Americans do. That is, in fact, what they mean by the claim that they “support our troops”: they want to bring them home and retrain them so they’re not forced into taking jobs as Bush’s torturers and thugs. It’s part of the same condescension as describing soldiers as “our children”. If a 22-year old intern wants to drop to the Oval Office broadloom, she’s a grown woman exercising her freedom of choice. But, if a 28-year old guy wants to serve in Iraq, he’s a poor wee misguided Grade Six drop-out who doesn’t know any better. John Kerry’s soundbite is interesting not because it’s the umpteenth self-inflicted wound by Mister Nuance but because it gets right to the heart of the Democrats’ “support” for the troops.

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