Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, July 16, 2004

You know who's cool?  Bob Herbert. You know who just rubs me the wrong way?  E.J. Dionne  
I'm not sure what it is about E.J.  I'm supposed to like him, of course, he's an allegedly quite liberal columnist for the country's premier political newspaper.  But it is very rare that I read one of his columns that I don't read several points that really just don't ring true.  It may be that we just see the world from different perspectives, which is fine and, let's face it, probably a credit to the guy.  But deep down I have to say it seems like he's phoning it in.
First of all, the Atwater/Rove comparison is thin.  The two men have a lot in common, but their styles aren't particularly similar.  Part of that may be the target of their attacks - Dukakis was hapless, and far from the best and brightest the democratic party had to offer at the time.  Kerry is a fascinatingly intelligent power campaigner and an extremely cool customer who thrives in the stretch and who is not going to blunder away the campaign without help.  A lot of people, including me, were a little disappointed when he crushed the Dean Nation, but you have to admit, from a pure sports fan's perspective, that primary strategy was a thing of beauty.  Compare that to how Dukakis got the nom, and well... 
But part of it is definitely the style of the men themselves.  Put simply, Atwater had it - he was the real thing, a guy who could've got work running interference for Lucifer himself, and probably will someday.  Rove is a cheap thug who grew up on brute force and crude cloak-and-dagger bullshit.  His political life will not end gracefully, because grace is not in him.  Comparing the two is like comparing Johnny Chan and a particularly skilled deck mechanic.  Both make their money playing poker, but it ain't the same game, really.
The other thing is this flip-flopaphobia so many Democrats are developing.  Here's a chess maxim for you - never assume your opponent's strategy is correct.  "Flip-flopper" is a slur that politicians hurl when they can't think of anything else to say.  It's ridiculous, and it doesn't work.  People who aren't going to vote for Kerry but can't think of a good reason are going to latch on to the flip-flopper thing as a justification, but it isn't going to define the campaign the way the "Al Gore is a dirty liar" script defined Campaign 2000. 
If you think about it, flip-flopping is a crude synonym for politics.  Pretty much the only legitimate power a Senator has is his right to vote either "yes" or "no" on anything he wants.  If you aren't willing to play ball on that field, you've left yourself without much of an angle.  Which is why, for example, the Republicans can consistently win votes that they should have lost by holding the vote open and working the crowd.  They aren't just going up to these guys who voted "yes" and saying "Are you sure you wanted to vote 'yes?'"  Gasp!  They are making deals to get these guys to change their votes. 
Anyway, I've got to go.  Hopefully more later.


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