Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Of Incompetence And Negligence

WDR friend Michael Webber rightly points out that the latest narrative regarding George Bush's record is his administration's complete and utter incompetence. The LA Times ran a story this week about how George Bush's incompetence and bad judgment turned Fallujah into such a hotbed of the insurgency, and the NY Times writes about how his incompetence allowed hundreds of tons of highly explosives materials to go unguarded and into the hands of insurgents.

Interim Prime Minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi added a different noun to this theme, blaming the American military’s “gross negligence” for the massacre by insurgents of 49 freshly trained Iraqi soldiers on Saturday.

As Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly notes, this is why John Kerry will win next week, because "For all of President Bush's valiant efforts to make this campaign a referendum on his challenger's character, it is turning into what the nature of politics demands: a referendum on the incumbent's performance." People don't want, as Kerry calls Bush's governing strategy, "more of the same." And indeed, Kerry's claim that he represents "a fresh start" is a nicer way of calling the President "incompetent," and allows people who don't hate Bush to get on board. Crawford continues:

I could see this mood in the nods of agreement in an airport lounge recently as a television news clip showed Kerry saying the country needs "a fresh start." This could be the most powerful phrase in Kerry's arsenal during the closing days.

Calling for "a fresh start" sounds like a phrase that was poll tested with a battery of focus groups, which is why it works. It is a simple notion conveyed by simple words.

The need for a fresh start is the least provocative argument that Kerry offers for replacing Bush after one term, and yet it might be the most persuasive. Kerry's more provocative language sets the bar too high for voters to come his way.

When Kerry portrays the president as either deceitful or incompetent, he delights those partisan Democrats who despise Bush. But most voters say they like the president, even if they lean against voting for him. The "fresh start" message gives those voters a reason to vote for Kerry without joining the hate-Bush camp.


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