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Hullabaloo


Thursday, July 01, 2004

 
Timing The Attack

Ezra Klein makes an interesting point about political attacks in this post. First, he says that for a political attack to be useful, it must be accurate. Second, it must be politically accurate and third, it must be effective.

The first point may actually be debatable. For the most part, it seems to me that it only needs to be believable in order to resonate. Still, I would not suggest adopting the character assassination method of political attack. If it isn't accurate, I'm against it.

His second point is really the one that caught my eye because I don't think people understand this and it's important that they do:

Political accuracy is a bit different. It relies on the American people being ready to believe something is true. In April, 45% of Americans said honest and trustworthy were not words that applied to Bush. With that in mind, I think the populace is primed for a discussion over whether or not he is a liar. It's an argument I think we'll win, which is why I advocate it. Now, if less than half think Bush is dishonest, it stands to reason that even fewer will be willing to call him -- or hear him called -- a criminal. That's why I argue against that label. The general rule of thumb here is that levying the charge shouldn't do us damage -- if it does, we're better off keeping our mouths shut.


Absolutely. Here among ourselves in the clubby left blogosphere we've been hurling every insult imaginable at Bush for so long that it's almost impossible to believe that the public in general doesn't see that we are dealing with the most dishonest president in American history, and that includes Nixon. But, until fairly recently, his image held up as the all-american "straight shooter." Only now are they ready to hear the charge that we all know has been true for quite some time.

This is an interesting thing and it's worth thinking about a bit. When, exactly, did the tide begin to turn on that and what precipitated it? How did we finally reach a point where a polemic like F9/11 could cross into mainstream popular culture and have such an impact? When did the public give itself permission to challenge the orthodoxy and why?

There are many possibilities, but I think it's actually one specific event and one slow realization combining to bring people to that conclusion. The first was the strut across the deck of the aircraft carrier which, while it thrilled the punditocrisy and many partisans, also stunk to high heaven as a phony PR stunt. Straight shooters don't play that way.

The second, of course, is the missing weapons of mass destruction. People may not consciously blame Junior for lying, but there is a strong sense of discomfort at the idea a president would say the words "I will disarm Saddam Hussein" about 4,752 times and it turns out there was nothing to disarm. The dissonance is palpable.

So, we seem to have reached a point at which the public is ready to hear that the Empty Codpiece is a liar without it shocking their emotional perception of him as a straightshooter.

But, Ezra's point is extremely important. While those of us in the vanguard of leftwing politics are out there shaking our fists, which is as it should be, we must also recognize that politicians have to be aware of the greater public's capacity to absorb that reality. They must be coaxed along, not bludgeoned by our leaders. The bludgeoning is our job.


P.S. That Ezra's good isn't he?








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