Saturday, May 27, 2006

Too late

This is why candidates lose elections. Beyond the manufactured polish, spin doctors and focus groups, most voters still respond to authenticity. Sometimes, we even like seeing our politicians pissed off, particularly if their anger is righteous.

If John Kerry had fought back against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the campaign, he might've won. Because he didn't, voters in the middle decided maybe there was some truth in their accusations. Now Kerry is finally fighting back. My question: what took so long? --

Another photograph provides evidence for Mr. Kerry's version of how he won the Bronze Star. And original reports pulled from the naval archives contradict the charge that he drafted his own accounts of various incidents — which left room, the Swift boat group had argued, to embellish them.

Mr. Kerry's defenders have received help from unlikely sources, including some who were originally aligned with the Swift boat group but later objected to its accusations against Mr. Kerry. One of them, Steve Hayes, was an early member of the group. A former sailor, he was a longtime friend and employee of William Franke, one of the group's founders, and he supported the push to have Mr. Kerry release his military files. But Mr. Hayes came to believe that the group was twisting Mr. Kerry's record.

"The mantra was just 'We want to set the record straight,' " Mr. Hayes said this month. "It became clear to me that it was morphing from an organization to set the record straight into a highly political vendetta. They knew it was not the truth." ...

Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard.

"They lied and lied and lied about everything," Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"

I don't know the truth, but I always suspected the Swift Boaters' motives. But their charges stuck because Kerry reacted to them like just another robotic liberal from Massachusetts (see: "If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered ...").

Playing it safe is a recipe for electoral disappointment. You'd think Kerry would've learned to play rough as a "Skull and Bones" alumnus (one lesson George W. actually absorbed).

Bad sign: this is a likely precursor to another Kerry run in 2008. Kerry, Clinton, Gore ... time to MoveOn.

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