July 06, 2004

John Kerry vs. Non-Kerry

An interesting anecdote in a book about the Beatles (named, appropriately enough, “The Beatle Book”) tells about one of Paul McCartney’s childhood quirks. A left-hander, McCartney lived in a culture and age where being left-handed was some kind of stigma (this was before they were discovered to be far-superior people, of course). For the most part, McCartney adapted well enough, except when it came time for him to learn to ride a bicycle. See, young Paul insisted on pedaling backward.

Even in the face of numerous wipeouts and the frustrating lack of locomotion, McCartney was not deterred from his unique method of cycling. In fact, he went so far as to declare that everyone else was doing it wrong. Finally his father asked him why, if everyone else was pedaling wrong, they were staying on their bikes while he kept falling on his head. Paul got the message and changed his ways.

What compels a person to insist that what they are doing is correct even as common sense and physics prove them wrong? Is there never even a thought in the back of their minds that maybe they should question the wisdom of their actions? Fortunately for the Bush-Cheney campaign, the answer to that second question seems to be, “Yes, there is a thought!”

How will the Bush administration’s apparent admission of its errors be visible? Can we expect the beginning of the end of operations in Iraq? Will we see the end of a lopsided tax code? Will all Americans be guaranteed decent health care? Are big corporations finally going to pay a fraction of the taxes they should have been paying all these years?

Just joking! Actually, none of that has or will happen. So why do I think that Team Bush has seen the error of its ways? The answer is in the nature of the Republicans’ new campaign materials. Because Bush’s term has been such a disaster, even they can’t sell themselves anymore.

Instead of focusing on the pertinent issues and on its man, the Bush “re”-election campaign has turned into “anybody but Kerry.” Look at http://www.georgewbush.com/... “The Kerry Gas-Tax Calculator...The Kerry Travel Tracker...Kerry on the Patriot Act...Kerry: the Raw Deal...Kerry: Wacky...” I guess those third-party advocates were right after all; there really isn’t much difference between these two. Both are obsessed with the same candidate!

In debating numerous conservatives and libertarians over the past several months, I notice that one point comes up with regularity: that John Kerry is a man without a concrete message. Bush, they say, stands tall and firm on his principles. But they forget that there’s a line between being adamant in your views and just being damn hardheaded. Kerry showed that he is able to change his mind about Iraq in the face of revelations that the information was misleading in early 2003. For that he is being called a flip-flopper.

But that’s beside the point. The Bush apologists spend their debate energy harping on liberals liking Kerry only because they hate Bush. Because of the ongoing rift between liberals and moderate Democrats, this little anti-Kerry negativity works for conservatives in debates. The Bush campaign has caught onto this tactic and is now hoping that voters will pick Bush simply because, well, he’s not Kerry.

Like with everything else, Bush is steering the never-civil-to-start-with realm of campaigning (and, in turn, the national discourse) in a poisonous direction. Until we, as a nation, can garner the courage to stand up to Bush and say, “You’re doing it all wrong,” then Bush will continue to pedal us—backward—right into the ground.

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