Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Playing Defense
pResident Bush uttered two astonishing words last week: 'Senator Kerry.'

'Senator Kerry,' Bush said at a fundraising luncheon Thursday in California, 'has been in Washington long enough to take both sides on just about every issue.'

It was by far the earliest time an incumbent president has invoked the name of his opponent, even considering the rapid conclusion of the Democratic primary race."
This is not a mere matter of calendar trivia. It is a sign that Bush has been put on the defensive and forced to join the political fray, long before he wanted to do. Indeed, Bush mentioned John F. Kerry five more times in a speech yesterday in Dallas. Democrats are delighted that they have forced Bush to abandon the Oval Office for the hustings.
Some Republicans agree that Bush has been "on his heels," as one prominent GOP figure put it, responding to Kerry and the Democrats rather than waging the reelection campaign on his own terms. Instead of showcasing Bush's strength -- his performance in the war on terrorism -- his campaign and the White House are reacting to Democrat-fueled flaps: his Vietnam-era service in the National Guard; his economists' improbable prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year; the foreign "outsourcing" of U.S. service jobs; a grand jury probe into the administration's leak of a CIA operative's name; and a Bush campaign ad's use of a flag-draped casket from 9/11 even as the administration forbids photographs of soldiers' caskets returning from Iraq.

The White House and the Bush campaign seem to have been spooked. They seem fearful and tentative and weak at exactly the moment when they need to be confident and aggressive," editors William Kristol and Fred Barnes write in the latest issue of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine. "Democrats and their allies are united behind Bush's opponent, John Kerry, and have no qualms about attacking the president on any subject whatsoever. At best, Bush's aides respond defensively. At worst, their clumsiness turns a minor flap into a prolonged controversy.[Nitpicker editorialization]
Tumblin'. You almost feel pity for them (the Repugnicans). I mean if they really believe Bush's strength is his performance in the war on terror -well...okay then.


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