No offense to all the other zombies out there, who at least know how to close in for the kill. Between the 9/11 Commission, the economy, the export of jobs overseas, the spawning (vs. defeat) of terrorists, the Patriot Act, missing WMDs, the growing death toll in Iraq, the abuse of prisoners, the Cheney court case, Enron and Halliburton, Kerry should be taking every opportunity to shout "breach of trust." Instead, he's been steadily on the defensive, muttering incomprehensibly about his discarded war medals.
So now, with the Bush-Cheney campaign sparing no deceit to misrepresent Kerry's record, the senator decides to release two biographical spots telling America the one thing they already know about him: that he's a war hero.
"He went to college at Yale and volunteered to serve in Vietnam," the voice-over reminds us. " In combat he earned the silver star, the bronze star and three purple hearts."
That's swell, but getting shot is not exactly a credential for office.
The bio spots are laudably positive and inoffensive-but challenging a well-financed incumbent during a messy war is no time for inoffensiveness. Not that Kerry should smear the president, Karl Rove-style, but he does need to forcefully articulate the differences between him and his opponent. He needs to do that simply. He needs to do it ruthlessly. He needs to do it relentlessly.
Imagine, to open a spot, file footage of President Bush on the carrier deck in front of the "Mission Accomplished" banner, with the following voice-over:
"George Bush played combat officer for the TV cameras; John Kerry took enemy fire in Vietnam. George Bush has mortgaged our children's future with unprecedented deficits; John Kerry will fight to restore fiscal sanity. George Bush alienated our closest allies; John Kerry vows to restore American prestige. George Bush has raised $200 million for his campaign while losing 2 million American jobs; John Kerry has supported the American worker his entire Senate career. George Bush used dubious evidence to send our young men and women to war; John Kerry took his president at his word ... and now he demands accountability."
Then the candidate: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because leadership isn't about a ruling clique. It's about courage."
That's only 18 words. It's at least within the realm of possibility that Kerry could utter them without making the TV audience fall asleep.
Shrum, Devine & Donilon, Washington D.C.