Hugh Hewitt - Principal Contributor
Hewitt is senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
board. [go to Hewitt index]
Talking a tough game, but...
[Hugh Hewitt] 8/5/04
late Sunday afternoon rebroadcast of Sunday morning's Fox News
Sunday featured an interview with Sens. Kerry and Edwards, a discussion
segment with Bush-Cheney chief strategist Matthew Dowd and Newt
Gingrich, and then a panel discussion with Fred, Mort, Mara and
Bill Kristol filling in for Juan Williams.
The most striking aspect of the program was how the intervening
event of Tom Ridge's announcement of the higher terror alert
had rendered so much of the program irrelevant. Some of what
mattered so much Sunday morning seemed beside the point following
the sudden refocusing on the one issue that should and will drive
this campaign: Who is more competent to direct the war and protect
the country while doing so?
This return to center stage of the war also underscores why
the Kerry-Moore convention failed so miserably. The USA Today-Gallup-CNN
poll shows Bush actually picking up ground during the Democrats'
big week, and I think the reason is that even though the Dems
tried to put a game face on the national security issue, if the
public is thinking about the war, they are also thinking about
how ill-equipped the Dems are to wage it.
Told of the news that the terror alert was about
to be raised, Howard Dean on CNN immediately speculated that
politics had motivated
the call – underlining why the party which gave him a key
speaking role is not to be trusted on life-and-death issues.
That level of paranoia about the GOP – as opposed to the
terrorists – shows Moore's Disease has spread far and wide
within the Democratic Party.
The Fox talking heads were also fairly unified in dismissing
the idea that John Kerry's way-left Senate voting record of 20
years would matter in the campaign. Kerry is trying to get away
with a Bourne candidacy, acting as a key player who simply cannot
recall the specifics of a long career in public life.
Dowd and Newt focused on this strange unwillingness by Kerry
to celebrate his own record, but Mort Kondracke, Bill Kristol
and Mara Liasson all agreed that time spent on Kerry's Senate
votes was time wasted by the Bush campaign.
On this they are wrong. Because John Kerry has a long record
of immediate relevance to the immediate threats posed to Americans.
People worried about going to work in the Citigroup tower, the
New York Stock Exchange, the Prudential complex or the various
addresses near to the named D.C. targets are going to be thinking
of little else than what the government can do to erase that
threat. And they are going to be looking at the choice in November
with that threat in mind.
John Bourne Kerry wants to talk a tough game about this threat,
but he's been voting on defense and intelligence matters for
two decades. Many of the crucial weapon systems in use in Afghanistan
and Iraq have been opposed by Kerry, and the intelligence that
has provided at least this much warning is coming from a system
that, however flawed, would have been half the current strength
had John Kerry's radical defunding plan been adopted when he
The various commentators Sunday morning stressed
that this election is largely a referendum on Bush – one
that cannot be won by disqualifying Kerry on the basis of a
whacked-out record in
the Senate. Such pronouncements ignore the most common bit of
conventional wisdom in circulation this year: the inevitability
of a tight race. When tens of millions are voting but many of
the states will be decided by tens of thousands of votes, every
issue matters that has traction among even a percent or two of
My guess is that there are millions of Americans who don't know
the specifics of Kerry's deeply ingrained hostility to the use
of American force, his opposition to robust defense spending,
and his radical views vis-a-vis the necessity of large intelligence
appropriations. The folks inside the Beltway always seem to overlook
the undeniable fact that most of what goes on inside the 495
doesn't get much attention beyond it.
Not until a crisis erupts, that is, as one may be erupting now.
And not until an election looms and a choice must be made, as
one must be made now.
Bush-Cheney '04 is well advised to spend a lot of time telling
the truth about John Kerry's record. The complaint will come
that this is negative campaigning. Better to be thought negative
than to allow the American electorate to proceed to the polls
under the impression that the speeches of Boston had anything
to do with beliefs of John Kerry as expressed in more than 5,000
votes cast over 20 years. CRO
Principal Contributor Hugh Hewitt is an author, television
and syndicated talk-show host of the Salem Radio Network's Hugh
Hewitt Show, heard in over 40 markets around the country.
He blogs regularly at HughHewitt.com and he frequently contributes opinion pieces to the Weekly
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