I just read a couple of blog entries on the RNC by William Saletan over at Slate: one on Bush's speech; the other on Miller's. And I read Andrew Sullivan's take on the same speeches (Bush; Miller) over at his blog, along with Sullivan's Sunday Times analysis of the Bush camp's smear campaign against Kerry's war service.
The heart of Bush's strategy is to make the war on terror the driving issue; and to paint Kerry as weak, traitorous (via Swift boat ads), indecisive, and unpatriotic. So Miller and other republican's are spouting bald-faced lies about Kerry's senate record.
Meanwhile, Kerry plans to campaign on the economy, which Bush has mishandled. And Kerry should draw attention to that. But he also needs to move attention away from the Vietnam issue and onto the Iraq war issue.
And the message is simple: even if you believed when Bush rushed to war, or still believe now, that the war in Iraq was a good idea; even if you believed when Bush rushed to war that we couldn't give inspections more time; even if you believed when Bush rushed to war that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; even if you believed when Bush rushed to war that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda; even if you believed all that, which we now know to wrong, there's no way you can believe that Bush went to war responsible.
Simply from a management standpoint, everything about Iraq and how Bush has handled it has been incompetent: the intelligence; the postwar planning; the trust in Chalbi; the my way or the highway attitude and discussions with the U.N.; the monies and materials being lost by Halliburton hijinks and mismanagement; the stress on national guard troops and families faced with seemingly never-ending tours; the lack of resources devoted to Afghanistan, whose "democratic government" dare not step out of Kabul for fear of the warlords who rule everywhere else; the failure to find Bin Laden after making him public enemy number one, wanted dead or alive.
But most of all, Bush keeps talking about a war on terror. Terror's a weapon. We're not a war on terror, we're at war with Islamic Jihadists whose ranks are filled by every act of agression we make, the biggest being the invasion of Iraq, and turning that country into a terrorist recruiting and training center. We made short order of Saddam's military, the depleted paper tiger that it was. We made short order of it when we threw him out of Kuwait, and that was before the long years of sanctions and no fly zones and other restrictions that crippled his army even further. Of course the initial battle and march to Baghdad was swift.
But in failing to secure the peace, to secure the country, to provide order quickly, we made Iraq more porous and more open to terrorists. Dumb. Stupid. Incompetent. But worse of all dangerous. We're not safer because Saddam's gone; more soldiers have been killed in Iraq since he's been deposed than before.
If Kerry's going to win, in addition to running on the failures of Bush's economic policy, he also has to run on the failures of Bush's foreign policy and the utter incompetence with which Bush has waged this so-called war on terror.
Kerry's been reluctant to do that for fear of appearing unpatriotic. But look, he's being charged with that anyway, so he may as well step and say. "How dare you use that charge to avoid taking responsibility for your failures. You failed to be honest with the American people; you failed to be honest with our troops adn their families; you failed to honestly plan for the peace; you failed to honestly assess the cultural and political costs of building a postwar Iraq; you failed in every conceivable way in executing this war. We cannot win this war with that kind of incompetence and rash judgment. You sir should be fired."
That's got to be the other half of Kerry's message. If he doesn't make it, forcibly, he will lose.