Friday, October 29, 2004

Bob Woodward nails down exactly what Kerry says he'd have done different than Bush in Iraq.

At the end of last year, during 3 1/2 hours of interviews over two days, I asked President Bush hundreds of detailed questions about his actions and decisions during the 16-month run-up to the war in Iraq. His answers were published in my book "Plan of Attack."

Beginning on June 16, I had discussions and meetings with Sen. John Kerry's senior foreign policy, communications and political advisers about interviewing the senator to find out how he might have acted on Iraq -- to ask him what he would have done at certain key points. Senior Kerry advisers initially seemed positive about such an interview.

One aide told me, "The short answer is yes, it's going to happen." In August, I was talking with Kerry's scheduler about possible dates.

On Sept. 1, Kerry began his intense criticism of Bush's decisions in the Iraq war, saying "I would've done almost everything differently."

A few days later, I provided the Kerry campaign with a list of 22 possible questions based entirely on Bush's actions leading up to the war and how Kerry might have responded in the same situations.

The senator and his campaign have since decided not to do the interview, though his advisers say Kerry would have strong and compelling answers....

Here are the 22 questions... (WaPo)
OK, folks, let's imagine the strong and compelling answers we are assured Kerry would have, if Kerry had answers.

They're better than Bush's real answers, right? Sure!

This sums up the whole Kerry campaign. Everybody in it knows full well that nobody is going to vote for Kerry -- the real Kerry. That's why he's made not even a pretense of running on his 20-year record in the Senate.

Moreover, if he actually answers any of these questions about Iraq -- like Bush did -- he not only exposes himself to criticism from people who know what they are talking about but also risks splitting the moderate part of the Democratic party from its anti-war left, rivening its support for him.

Thus we get Kerry's no press conference, no questions answered, Senate record ignored, health and military records not explained and buried, all anti-Bush campaign:

Bush was AWOL, Bush lied, Bush is inept, Bush is going to bring back the draft, Bush is going to cut Social Security benefits, while Kerry would be ... better.

How? Well, we won't say -- but if we did, it would be in a strong and compelling way!

Kerry is selling a Kerry of imagination to the Democratic left, and Democratic middle, and the undecideds -- a different imaginary Kerry to each, with the idea that each will think its own imaginary Kerry better than the real Bush.

That's fair enough in politics -- it's Marketing 101. Years ago when I first entered the business world a noted marketing maven told me, "Never say too much about the product in the advertising, sell the dream." And the election season is nothing if not a grand exercise in mass marketing.

But say Kerry wins this way, by one or two or three percentage points of the vote. Then he's not going to be able to avoid questions and giving answers to them that will cost him that much of his support (we know, or he'd be willing to give those answers now).

And as that happens, he will find himself in all likelihood having to deal with a Republican House and Senate.

This strategy he is pursuing is not exactly a formula for Ruling with a Mandate.

Clinton's second term, dealing with a Republican Congress -- the one in which he got himself impeached -- could end up looking like a holiday in comparison.

That marketing maven also said that if you sell too much dream without saying enough about the product, you have to be prepared to deal with a lot of returns.