Saturday, September 18, 2004

Does Kerry Really Need This Much Advice?

Lately, the Kerry campaign has been piling on consultants and strategists (but don't use the term "shake-up") in a vain attempt to focus their message--although I haven't figured out what, exactly, that message is supposed to be, other than that Kerry, who by the way served in Vietnam, is not Bush. This development is leading to much head-shaking and satire. "must-reads" today included this gem from David Brooks' Op-Ed column in the NYT (registration required). A sample:

And so it came to pass there are no swing voters left, because they've all been hired by campaign Kerry. They form a great and mighty leviathan, dedicated to the proposition that John Kerry should believe in something. The flow chart is as clear as can be. Sasso reports to Lockhart, Devine, Sosnick, Cutter and Cahill, while Cutter reports to Devine, Mellman, McCurry, Shrum and herself - except on weekends, when Devine reports to Mellman and Sosnick and Cahill reports to McCurry and Sasso. Lockhart handles strategic response, McCurry daily response, Cutter tactical response and Cahill metaresponse.

Betsy Newmark has this to say after reading a story from The Washington Post about all the new advisors in Kamp Kerry:
Yup, leadership by committee. That's the ticket. But, apparently Kerry thrives on chaos and conflicting advice. I guess it reflects accurately the chaos and conflict within his own mind. But it doesn't demonstrate the type of leadership we need at any time, especially when we're at war. I prefer the guy with the MBA who knows how to run things.

I totally agree with Betsy. Watching the mis-management of the Kerry campaign gives me zero confidence in the competence level of a Kerry administration. The Concord Monitor Online opines that how well a campaign is run can be a proxy for how well an administration will run:

Candidates often comport themselves on the presidential-campaign trail in a way in which they can suggest they would be presidential in the White House.

The twist in 2004 is that the Republicans are using the way Kerry is campaigning -making him look like a nattering nabob of nuancing - to paint a picture of how he might approach problems in the Oval Office. In short: flounder from Boston.

A prime example occurred midweek. Right there in the heart of enemy territory - the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at once the most literate, most conservative and most indispensable page in American newspapers today - there appeared a piece titled "My Economic Policy," by John Kerry himself. Read it and you can see why the editors of the Journal must have been delighted to publish it. The piece had more hedges than an English garden.

If you're a glutton for good analysis, Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters dissects Kerry's essay. He concludes:

In the end, Kerry's economic plan consists of nothing but warmed-over populism, a few bones tossed to the middle class while tightening central control on our economy, an approach which we have learned over the past century does not work. And Kerry's essay begs one last, overriding question: if Kerry thinks all of this will help America, why didn't he do anything about it as Senator?

The lack of leadership on Mr. Kerry's part is hurting his campaign. Dick Morris writes in The New York Post:

Kerry's basic problem is that he has no overview of how he's going to win. His consultants and staff confuse a pile of ammunition with a strategy.

Their basic idea is to hit Bush with everything and anything they can find. But throwing negatives at a sitting president is like punching a pillow. It feels good and keeps the base happy — but it doesn't help to win the election. By the time a man has served four years as president, negatives that pre-existed his tenure are largely irrelevant.

The voters are noticing the lack of substance. The NYT (registration required) provides this tidbit about their latest NYT/CBS poll (hat tip to BlogsforBush):

In one particularly troublesome sign for Mr. Kerry, a majority of voters said he was spending too much time attacking Mr. Bush and talking about the past, rather than explaining what he would do as president. (Emp. added) In contrast, half of the registered voters said Mr. Bush had offered a clear vision of what he wanted to do in a second term.

That finding, combined with an rising unfavorable view of Mr. Kerry, underlines the complicated challenge the senator confronts as he tries to attack Mr. Bush without alienating voters put off by negative campaigning.