This issue of tactic not strategy is the one thing all those Democrats are falling over themselves to not understand.
The strategy is to use the money of extremely wealthy Republicans, T. Boone Pickens, Bob Perry, men who invest in projects created by right wing consultants and strategists. Invest I say because the payout that they receive from winning the election is a tremendous return on investment. This is why Sam Fox, our nation’s Ambassador to Belgium can truthfully claim that he didn’t know he was funding veteran attacks on John Kerry. He was committing money to the strategy, the tactics and the execution? He had no idea.
The strategy then is to use the money to attack and destroy and ridicule the Democratic opposition in a race. With the Swift Boat Veterans, it was attacking John Kerry’s military record. With Democrats last cycle and the Economic Freedom Fund, funded with $5,000,000 of Bob Perry’s money, it was to go off the “Democrats will raise taxes” mantra.
The strategy is to lie and diminish and attack Democrats, always has been, always will be. Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, all greatly impacted by this strategy, none swiftboated.
John Kerry, of course, was swiftboated.
Here are just a quick list of some of the absolutely unique factors that created the Swift Boat success that will not be repeated in 2004.
John Kerry’s service in Vietnam, opposition to the war and 30+ years of Republican push-back to that opposition.
There is a famous picture of John O’Neill with Richard Nixon in the White House from 1972 when Charles Colson first set up O’Neill as a front to deflect attention from John Kerry’s efforts. Charles Colson went to jail, Richard Nixon resigned, John O’Neill made a career out of being a ‘counter-foil’ – Colson’s words, to John Kerry.
The timing of the convention.
August 2004 was when the Kerry Campaign had to conserve money for the general election. The Republicans knew this and timed the attack perfectly.
The failure of John Kerry to respond, personally and with full force.
Politicians and their advisors have learned this lesson, perhaps too well. Now, Democrats over-react and fight back too hard and too fast ironically.
The emerging status of new media in 2004.
New media was emerging but was not yet the more fully-formed political movement that it is now. Lies were rapidly spread then, but not as rapidly debunked as they are now.
There is much, much more, the war in Iraq, George Bush’s own military record, 9/11, and so on.
But that was then, a moment in time when a real war hero was running against an incumbent President with a questionable record, and the Republicans put together an incredibly-brilliant, once-in-a-lifetime, plan and executed it.
It will never happen again.
And just as Democrats in 2004 poured money into Florida only to lose Ohio as well, so now, we seem obsessed with beating the swiftboaters.
Now, we need to look forward, not back.
Let me repeat that, they won. They won in August 2004 and as much as we want to keep fighting them, it’s over, done. John Kerry is not President. And all of the groups, focus, lamenting and 20/20 hindsight, mine including, will not, change this core fact.
Now there is a different battle, the strategy has not changed but the tactics will.
We, collectively, we have 90 days to game plan and create a fight back group that will fight the next war, not the last one.
We can all do this by thinking about the future not the past. How will they attack Hillary or Barack? And how will you defend and fight back that attack? Will they go to Barack’s strength – his oratorical skills where he has already exposed himself? I’m sure they will.
Will there be blatant racism we need to shine the light on? Yes.
Will there be blatant sexims we need to shine the light on? Yes
Will they go after Hillary’s White House years and the Vince Foster rumors? Absolutely.
But none of that is swiftboating. None of that will be organized by the right, but there is something that appears like it will be.