Saturday, October 16, 2004

Kerry's Fatal Gaffe

Weekend Symposium 3: How deep a hole have John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill and the Edwards dug for themselves? How lasting the damage?

That reminds me of a story.

In his second memoir Foley is Good, former pro wrestling great Mick Foley describes the build-up to a main-event angle he did with Paul "Triple H" Levesque in late 1999-early 2000:

"The vignettes reached a humorous but physical climax when the Bogus Mankind exited the Back to the Future ride. The Bogus one's words upon entering had hit hard. 'I know,' he said, 'I'll set the hands of time back to December 28, 1998, the day I won my first WWF title.' His next comment was out of line, but not out of the story line.

"'Or better yet, March 15, 1992, the last time my wife found me attractive and let me have sex with her. Boy, that sure was a great day.'

"Uh-oh, a remark about my family. Retaliation was definitely called for.

"When he came out of the ride, that call was definitely answered, as the real Mankind was on the scene and was one angry man....

"'Are you talking about my wife?' I asked with anger, which caused the fake guy to come out of character. 'Hey, man, I was just-' I cut him off with a scream: 'Are you talking about my family?!?' Again, the fake Mankind tried to explain. 'Listen, Triple H hired me-' I cut him off with a forearm and then proceeded to destroy him in the first, and until someone does a better one, best wrestling fight ever staged at the exit of the Back to the Future ride."

I thought of this story when I heard John Kerry inject Mary Cheney into Debate III with utter and complete gratuity.

Mary Cheney is, of course, one of Dick and Lynne Cheney's two daughters. Probably few people, if any, even know this because walking tumors like John-John take such great delight in making the useful one famous for what makes her useful.

Why do they derive so much cruel pleasure from these bits of "outing"? Apparently because they and their operatives really, truly believe that if the GOP base finds out that Dick Cheney has a gay child, it will either turn on the President or stay home on November 2nd en masse. Just as they apparently really, truly believe that all Republicans chew tobaccy, drive beat-up old pickup trucks with gunracks in the back, and keep kneepads and white sheets under the front seat for easy access.

The depth and candor of left-wing prejudice is one of the novelties of this campaign. But even if Dems had been mindful of keeping that under wraps, the propensity of their nominee for the rhetorical runs would have betrayed it anyway.

Opie Edwards, after all, played the same smarmy card in the veep debate. But his version was drenched in the Clintonesque. He prefaced the shot by oozingly stressing his faux praise of the Cheneys for what he might just as well have described as "having a gay daughter and yet loving her anyway." Big Time, exercising herculean restraint of the urge he was doubtlessly feeling to give Li'l John the Pat Leahy treatment, bit off an obligatory, perfunctory acknowledgment and let it go.

Op got away with it because of that verbal lubrication and because Cheney was actually present as a participant.

But Kerry...he has neither of those excuses, weak as they are.

Oh, he tried to spin it yesterday: "I said it in a very respectful way about their love of their daughter. . . . I was saying it in a way that embraced the love of their daughter. . . . All I was trying to do is point out that it - let their daughter speak. Was it a choice, or was she born the way she was? That was the question. I was being respectful, purely respectful."

This was, of course, his recitation of his campaign's self-evident strategy on this, since the above is the Edwards preface almost word for word. That aspect was confirmed when Mary Beth Cahill described Mary Cheney as being "fair game." Which makes me wonder why Edwards didn't try to bring up the veep's health as an issue by inquiring if he'd had any chest pains lately. Heck, Kerry might have been soft-pedaling; he could have said what an inspiration Barbara and Jenna are for having overcome their incipient bar-hopping given the genetic predisposition to alcoholism they inherited from the President. Bush hadn't been scowling much of late.

Let's revisit what Kerry did say: "We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

How many homosexuals are there in the United States? Even conservatively the number would have to be in the seven figures. How many of them are famous? Or activists? And are in Kerry's own party? If he just had to cite an example, didn't he have plenty to choose from that would have made the same ostensible point?

He didn't even refer directly to Mary Cheney - he said "Dick Cheney's daughter." And then, in case anybody didn't catch the reference, he added "who is a lesbian."

If Ms. Cheney were an activist, I could perhaps see the reference. But then, if Ms. Cheney were an activist, she would have almost certainly been given speaking time at the Democratic convention, right after Ron Reagan. Besides, who she is matters far less to the Kerryians than what she is: Dick Cheney's LESBIAN DAUGHTER. Hear dat, all yew raaht-wang snayke-handlers? Cain't vote fer Bush now, can ye?

Such objectified exploitation makes it equally transparent that Kerry has never met Mary Cheney in his life, and doesn't have a flipping clue what she thinks about whether homosexuality is genetic or volitional.

So much contempibility in just a few short sentences. Going after an opponent's family; the gross insult to the collective intelligence of opposition supporters; its compounding by trying to lamely spin it with the part of the line he incompetently left out when he originally uttered it.

And then, after the Cheneys reacted with restrained but righteous indignation, just when the furor couldn't get any worse for Lurch, Lizzie Edwards had to throw in this:

"She's [Lynne Cheney] overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs… I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences… It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response." [my emphasis]

This is the ultimate example of the "Who the hell do you people think you are?!?" factor. It just doesn't get any lower than that.

But, as I've been asking quite a lot lately, "Will it matter?"

Something decisive always seems to come out of presidential debates, and it's almost never a matter of substance. From Nixon's sweating and five-o'clock shadow in 1960 to Ford claiming that Poland wasn't part of the Warsaw Pact, to Reagan's "There you go again" to Carter and "I will not exploit my opponent's youth and inexperience" to Mondale, to Dukakis' bloodless reply to Bernard Shaw's "What if your wife was raped and murdered" death penalty question, to Bush41's watch-checking, and Al Gore's rudeness and alpha-male posturing. What do all these have in common? They were real, unscripted moments. Instances where the real man behind the carefully cultivated mask peaked around its corner and showed himself.

That's what happened Wednesday night. It was vintage Kerry in that it was supposed to be a scripted gimmick and yet he completely botched it, revealing the loathsome conniving and vicious cruelty underneath.

It was a tipping point. The fulcrum. The catalyst. The final straw.

It takes a great deal to outrage the American public. God knows the Left has done enough to provoke mass outrage over the past few years with its relentless, unprecedented vilification of George W. Bush. And then have come the past month's campaigns of organized terrorism against Republicans and open, brazen vote fraud across the country, and equally blatantly empty accusations of all these things lobbed by Dems against GOPers, with accompanying promises to multiply Florida2K at least fivefold.

But for all of that, for four and a half hours of debating over the past two weeks, the thing we remember, eclipsing the President's peevish body language way back in Coral Gables, is what Bill Kristol describes as "this particular McCarthyite moment."

And never mind that it takes a great deal to make Morton Kondracke sound like Michael Savage. Just behold what the Washington Post was forced to report yesterday:

"An overwhelming majority of voters believe it was wrong for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry to have mentioned in Wednesday's presidential debate that Vice President Cheney's daughter was a lesbian, according to the latest Washington Post tracking survey.
Nearly two in three likely voters - 64% - said Kerry's comment was 'inappropriate,' including more than four in 10 of his own supporters and half of all swing voters. A third - 33% - thought the remark was appropriate."

This is going to matter. It does matter. And Kerry has no further opportunities, like the debates, to change campaign dynamics back again, nor the time for memories of his caustic name-dropping to fade.

The Vice President, appropriately, said it best: John Kerry is a man who will do and say anything (except apologize) to get elected. That is the image of the Democrat nominee voters will take to the polls two weeks from Tuesday.

And with Republicans livid, independents turned off, and Democrats trapped between miasmic hate static, defensive spin, and in a rare case here and there, honorable repudiation, the contrast with the President couldn't be more unfavorable.

Watch Pennsylvania. If the Keystone state is called for Bush, November 2nd will not be a long night.

UPDATE: Another factor to consider: what the respective campaigns' own internal polling is telling them. Bush going to New Jersey - a state that Kerry should have had locked up from day one - for that major foreign policy speech yesterday, Kerry and Edwards making several defensive forays there over the past few weeks, Kerry descending fully into the left-wing fever swamp himself to launch a series of "hail Mary" ploys like draft-mongering, scaring grandma, race-baiting, and invoking Halliburton vis-a-vie the flu vaccine shortage.

And then there's this story, hot off the wires this morning:

"President Bush has doubled his support among blacks in four years and Senator John Kerry's backing among the key Democratic voting bloc is down slightly from the support Al Gore won in 2000, according to a poll released Tuesday....

"The poll found Kerry receiving as much or more support than Gore among those age 18 to 25, those with less than a high school diploma and those making $60,000 or less.

"But Kerry had 49% support from black Christian conservatives, down from the 69% Gore enjoyed in 2000. Bush was at 36% among the group this year, more than tripling the 11% he got four years ago.

"Republican officials say they are making an effort this year to reach out to the black community. Campaign aides have cited Bush's support of school vouchers, public money that can be used to help pay private school tuition, and support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as issues that might win him more black votes."

I've heard and read for years that if Republicans could peel off even 5% of the usual 90+% black support their Democrat counterparts enjoy in national elections, much less 10%, the donks would cease being competitive. Well, if this polling can be believed, GDub has pulled it off. In an electorate that is supposedly so evenly divided, that cannot help but have an impact.

Now I will admit that all of this sounds a great deal different from what I was saying just a week ago. But what several readers described not unfairly as my "pessimism" was based upon what was happening at that time. In order to regain the momentum in the race, George Bush had to (1) do well in Debate III and (2) get some help from his opponent as his opponent got some help from him in Debate I. The President's Debate III performance, its contrast with the unimproved, uninspired, obviously pre-canned one of Senator Kerry, and Kerry's Mary Cheney blunder and the avalanche of fearmongering since, coughed that leg-up back to Mr. Bush. And with the debates concluded, Kerry has no further opportunities to impact the race, and less and less time for outside events - which at this point would have to be on the scale of the collapse of the Iraqi interim government, or a stock market crash - to come to his rescue. And his ever more fevered campaign rhetoric is a pretty clear indication that he doesn't think such "godsends" are in the cards.

No sooner do I write this than Fox News/Opinion Dynamics - one of the closest to the pin in 2000 - announces their latest poll: Bush 49%, Kerry 42%.

Sez Jim Geraghty's "Obi-Wan Kenobi-style veteran GOP operative," earlier today: "If the Washington Post/ABC tracking poll gets any more separation in the coming days, and there’s one or two good state polls for Bush, this race is over."

Today's WaPo/ABC poll? Bush 51%, Kerry 46%.

Annnnnnd Fox has Bush up five in Ohio.

Paging the Fat Lady, you are needed at the gorilla position. Paging the Fat Lady....