The Sunday Talkshow BreakdownA weekly feature of LiberalOasis(posted Oct. 18 2 AM ET)
The Kerry camp had a nicely coordinated effort yesterday, using a Kerry speech, a new ad, and surrogates on the Sunday shows, to successfully make news about Bush's plans to "privatize Social Security."
The Bushies had a Sunday show game plan also, using its surrogates to attack Kerry as someone who will "say anything to get elected."
This is actually the old 2000 attack line against Gore, drummed so diligently it became an Election Day exit poll question.
But today, as a last-minute gasp, it failed to make news (except as a weak reaction to the Kerry-driven Social Security headlines).
Kerry aides Bob Shrum (NBC), Tad Devine (CBS), Joe Lockhart (Fox) and Terry McCauliffe (CNN) all flagged the following quote from a recent private luncheon with Bush's "most ardent, longtime supporters," reported in this week's NYT Magazine:
"I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in," Bush said, "with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security."
That line was a very minor part of the highly disturbing article, which depicted a Bush White House that crafts policy through messianic faith while brazenly rejecting facts and reality.
But the fact that Kerry chose to stress the Social Security comment, and not the whole of the article, is an indication of the strong position Kerry is in as we head into the final stage.
He successfully used the three debates to turn back the flip-flop attack, and diminish the gap with Bush on foreign policy and terror.
He knows that Bush is in a precarious spot for an incumbent, with most poll numbers below 50% and undecideds ripe to go Kerry's way.
Not being on the defensive, Kerry was freed up to choose a proactive line of attack for the last two weeks.
And he is choosing to drill domestic issues, the well-established Democratic strength, for what he calls the "closing arguments."
While Bush, sensing the fading potency of the flip-flop campaign -- which he wasted 6 months on -- is flailing about for a fresh theme.
So even though the NYT Mag piece was a jaw-dropper (and should be sent to any undecided you know) Kerry did not have to junk his plans and attack Bush's excessive reliance on faith.
He merely picked the quote that easily fit into his desired strategy, aimed at what's on voters' minds.
Interestingly, the Bushies weren't prepared for the Social Security attack, as they did not have a consistent response.
On CNN's Late Edition, RNC Chair Ed Gillespie argued that Bush "never said" what the NYT Mag reported, calling it "Kitty Kelley journalism."
But on Meet The Press, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman did not deny it was said.
He simply made the case for privatization, disingenuously arguing that "there's no additional cost associated" with "allow[ing] younger workers…to set up personal retirement accounts" when it really will cost $2 trillion.
Similarly, on Fox News Sunday, after Lockhart said Bush wants to "privatize Social Security," Bush campaign chair Marc Racicot responded:
What the president is talking about...is allowing...younger workers to own a portion of their Social Security and invest it and make decisions.
That is sometimes referred to in the terms that Joe is mentioning.
That admission -- that what Bush is proposing can be described as privatization -- is something the Bushies have tried to deny for some time.
In 2002, an internal GOP memo claimed:
'Privatization' is a false and misleading word insofar as it is being used by Democrats to describe Republican positions on Social Security...
...It is very important that we not allow reporters to shill for Democrat demagoguery by inaccurately characterizing 'personal accounts' and 'privatization' as one in the same.
Racicot didn't get the memo.
So while Bushies scramble to figure out if they should admit what their leader said, and if they should call it privatization or not, Kerry's attacks are hitting their mark.
Lie of the Day
That transitional training is the honest answer to how you grow this economy.
Not this kind of pandering that Kerry does about, you know, "We're going to do away with all outsourcing."-- Rudy Giuliani, CBS' Face The Nation, 10/17/04
You can't stop all outsourcing...I've never promised that.
I'm not going to, because that would be pandering. You can't.
But what you can do is create a fair playing field, and that's what I'm talking about.-- John Kerry, 2nd presidential debate, 10/8/04