Bring It On!

Pig In A Poke - Don’t Forget November 2, 2006

September 10th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment…and it’s also easy to question the judgment of Barack Obama and his campaign in light of the constant unfounded GOP attacks.

While I share the same concerns, the current moment made me recall a similar moment prior to the 2006 election that drew gasps from virtually every Democrat. At the time, the fear (something we Democrats embrace too easily) led many to speculate that the untimely words of the man swiftboated in 2004 had inadvertently handed the midterm election to our adversaries.

Take a look at the Washington Post’s reporting at the time.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) issued two apologies for remarks that seemed to impugn U.S. troops and abandoned his public schedule yesterday, but he denounced what he called the “campaign of smear and fear” against him as the surreal sequel to the 2004 presidential election echoed across the campaign trail.

The White House and Republican allies orchestrated a cascade of denunciations throughout the day to keep the once and possibly future presidential candidate on the defensive and force other Democrats to distance themselves. Kerry canceled plans to appear with several candidates and returned home to avoid becoming “a distraction to these campaigns.”

Republican strategists appeared almost gleeful over the contretemps because it revived a favorite target at a time they need to motivate core supporters to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. GOP officials have tried to make the elections not a referendum on President Bush but a choice between two parties with competing visions over taxes, terrorism and Iraq, but they have struggled to find a symbol for Democrats. Kerry’s comments have allowed Republicans to make him again the face of his party and cast 2006 as a rerun of Bush vs. Kerry.

Democrats were irritated to lose two days in the homestretch that they would rather have devoted to Bush’s troubled Iraq policy, and they pressed Kerry to apologize and get out of sight. Hoping to change the subject, Democrats seized on comments by Bush, who told reporters he wants Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to remain in their jobs for the final two years of his administration.

Speaking to an audience in California on Monday, Kerry said: “Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Kerry said yesterday that he meant it as a dig at Bush, and his office released a copy of the prepared remarks he was supposed to deliver: “I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

Rejecting the explanation, Republicans quickly developed a Web ad demanding that he apologize and issued statement after statement attacking and mocking him. One released by House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) included a picture that appeared to show soldiers in the desert holding up a banner: “Halp Us Jon Carry — We R Stuck Hear N Irak.”

Kerry’s apology did not satisfy critics, so by day’s end, he issued a written apology: “I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform and I personally apologize to any service member, family member or American who was offended.”

So what can we take away from this event? Two things jump off of the page. One, Senator Kerry’s decision to apologize (no doubt implored by numerous fellow Democrats) led to calls for a better apology…which led to a second apology…which simply allowed the GOP to put an exclamation point on their accusations.

Secondly, the effort to manufacture controversy out of clumsy conversation failed miserably for the GOP. Voters, in their awareness of the underlying issues, proceeded to deliver “a whooping” to the party responsible for leading the nation for the prior six years.

As such, Democrats need to steel themselves against the aspersions, refuse to apologize for drawing fully accurate metaphors to describe the McCain-Palin affiliation with the policies of George W. Bush, continue to discuss the issues that matter to voters, and allow the GOP to continue to portray themselves as the distractors they have become…running feverishly from the sheer weight of eight years of mismanagement.

In the end, the GOP can do whatever they want to try to disguise the pig Barack Obama described. They can use lipstick as a distraction…or they can continue trying to white wash their own pathetic record. One thing is certain…the pig Barack Obama spoke of wasn’t Sarah Palin; it was clearly a reference to the possibility that we could be stuck with four more years of a pig in a poke.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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