Bedtime Stories for Democrats

John KerryIn advance of tomorrow night’s first Presidential debate between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry, there’s a lot of talk going on right now about the reputation that the senator from Massachusetts has for ‘strong finishes.’ An article in today’s New York Times details Kerry’s history of coming to life in the final stretches his campaigns, most notably in his bid for re-election to the Senate in 1996 and in his unexpected resurgence against Howard Dean in the Democratic primaries earlier this year. If it happens, I’ll be delighted — I’ll be ecstatic — but at this point, in spite of the fact that I continue to pump modest amounts of money into the Democratic effort for a November victory (and so should you!), these tales strike me as bedtime stories whispered into the ears of frightful Democrats as they — as we — pray into the night.

The Expectations Game

I know I sound pessimistic, but I’m trying not to get carried away with the increasingly shrill level of punditry to which voters will be subjected right up until the opening bell tomorrow night. The Republicans have set their incredibly disciplined and cutthroat spin machine to the task of raising the expectations for Kerry’s performance very high and, as is appropriate for the most incompetent president to hold the White House in the modern age, lowering the expectations for Bush as far below the median as possible. It’s just one of many gross distortions that the conservative influence has managed to effect this election season, all of them at the cost of an honest and truthful campaign dialogue.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

Setting all of that aside, I think there’s something inherently flawed with the idea that a Kerry comeback is possible. That’s partly because Bush-Cheney 2004 has done such a good job of frightening the public into the idea that electing Kerry is tantamount to inviting another horrific attack on our shores, as well as practically convincing them that Osama bin Laden is a Kerry-Edwards 2004 strategist.

But it’s also partly because the American public, in this climate of terrorist fear, may have a hard time buying the idea of a leader who only comes to life when his back is up against the wall. Bush and his handlers, through cunning and deceit, have successfully portrayed Kerry as weak and without conviction. I happen to believe that’s an incorrect assessment of Kerry’s worthiness as a leader — to me, there’s no question John Kerry has what it takes to keep this country safe, in far greater measures than Bush. It’s just that my cynical side can’t see an American public that bought into that false impression to begin with being open-minded enough to root for someone who only finds his fight at the very end. I absolutely hope I’m proven completely wrong after tomorrow night.


One Comment

  1. Kerry came across stronger than I thought he would in the debate, but he still failed to really say much about what he would do if he were president and instead focused on attacking the President’s policies and actions instead of offering plausible solutions. Not too compelling a reason to give up a vote if you ask me, but not bad for a campaign that’s sputtering and about out of gas. He was definitely better at shooting free throws and scoring a point here and there, but missing a lot of three pointers. Bush held is own against a more screwd and inteligent opponent, and had his share of awkward moments along with a few funny rebuttals to Kerry’s goofs. I’m certainly not a huge fan of Mr. Bush, but ya’ll better prepare yourself for another four years of “W” if this is the best Kerry can do. The first debate was a definitely a draw.

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