Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has another example of a Bush flip-flop. Fine. But that’s not how marketing works. You don’t point at Bush and say “he does it too.” That doesn’t work. Bush has now branded Kerry as a flip-flopper. Kerry did not respond well. The fact of Bush SAYING that Kerry flip-flops (and votes against military and intelligence programs), and repeating it, and not being answered immediately, MAKES IT SO. This is how “defining” works.
Now that Bush has labeled Kerry as the flip-flopper without Kerry answering it effectively, any discussion of flip-flops will be on Bush’s terms, and will be a discussion of HOW MUCH of a flip-flopper Kerry is. The press and the public will be looking at everything Kerry says for more examples. THIS IS HOW IT WORKS. Bush SAYS Kerry does it, and repeats it, so that is the topic of discussion. Don’t you get it? You don’t let them define you! You and me snickering at counter-examples on obscure blogs isn’t going to make a difference. You and me are not the American Public and WE do not see what THEY see! THEY hear that Kerry is a flip-flopper. That is how it works.
And Bush’s ads! The fact that Bush has SAID he is better at national security, and repeating it, MAKES IT SO. The fact that he ran pictures of 9/11 and victims in his ads MAKES IT SO. And they got away with it because the Democrats were too busy saying it wasn’t fair that he used pictures of 9/11 — like anyone understands what that is about — and so Bush has won the opening gambit with the public identifying him with “leadership” and Kerry not effectively answering by saying “ON HIS WATCH!” Now all discussion is doing to be in terms of how much better Bush is as a leader, while Kerry flip-flops. Bush SAID he is a LEADER and REPEATS IT and THAT IS HOW IT IS DONE. You repeat a simple message. DUH!
Kerry is doing some very good things to define Bush as well, but he’s like a neophyte at the game. He has to learn to say something simple, AND REPEAT IT AND REPEAT IT and, just as important, get everyone on his side repeating it, too. That is what the Republicans DO.
And I think “On His Watch” is a GREAT place to start. Repeat it and repeat it. Bloggers, repeat it. And repeat it. ON HIS WATCH. IT HAPPENED ON HIS WATCH. Repeat that phrase over and over and over AND DON’T STOP — I mean, what happened with AWOL, anyway, it was just starting to get somewhere, a few more months of repeating it and Bush would have been branded with it! That’s what “REPEAT IT” means! DUH!
Uh-oh. Wife’s giving me that “there you go again” look…
Update – I left out something. A big part of Bush winning the opening gambit is that he got out there FIRST. He ran ads in several states, talking about “leadership.” Kerry gets a few minutes on the news, for people who watch the news. But I don’t think that people who watch the news, and do it on channels that cover Kerry, are who Kerry needs to reach to define himself. Again, this is a thing where YOU AND I see one thing and most Americans see another. WE think that Bush has been “hit” by the accusation that he exploited 9/11 by using pictures in his ads. But I think that anyone who cares about this, or even KNOWS about it, is irrelevant to the upcoming battle. And Bush’s people know this.