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HOW TO LOSE AN ELECTION (PART 1)! Dem pundits plan to lose this race the same way they did in 2000:

THE NATURAL: We’ve linked to Paul Krugman many times in the past. He’s our most important Major Newspaper scribe. But this morning, he really comes into his own. We can’t put our finger on just what it is. But this morning, we’re finally willing to say it. We really think this bright young kid has an unlimited future.

HOW TO LOSE AN ELECTION (PART 1): We’ll start today as we rarely do—quoting another web site. Among web sites, we read Josh Marshall first every day. Yesterday, Marshall said this:

MARSHALL: The Bush-Cheney political campaign is telling all who will listen that they will spend the next month running a massive ad campaign (with a price tag of $30 million and no doubt supplemented by on-message talking points sent out to the all foot soldiers) aimed at mocking John Kerry as a undistinguished and risible figure. According to the Times, this will culminate at the GOP convention where Kerry will be portrayed as “an object of humor and calculated derision.”
The Bush camp plans to make Kerry an object of ridicule. Josh linked to a front-page story by Adam Nagourney in Sunday’s New York Times. Forgive the repetition, but this is important. Here’s how Nagourney started:
NAGOURNEY (8/1/04): President Bush's campaign plans to use the normally quiet month of August for a vigorous drive to undercut John Kerry by turning attention away from his record in Vietnam to what the campaign described as an undistinguished and left-leaning record in the Senate.

Mr. Bush’s advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision.

In his analysis, Marshall said the salient point in Nagourney’s piece was “the use of humor as a political weapon—mockery, derision, diminishment.” “Republicans are very good at this,” he continued. “And it can be a tool that is deceptively difficult to respond to or combat.”

Josh is right—these tools can be hard to combat. We know this because of something Josh didn’t mention—because this is precisely the way the GOP put Bush in the White House! Indeed, Sunday’s report was a virtual rerun of a piece the Times ran five years ago, at the start of Campaign 2000. In May 1999, presumptive Dem nominee Al Gore was already being destroyed by a campaign of deception and mockery. The campaign was coming from the RNC—and was spreading like wildfire all through the press. On May 19, 1999, the Times’ Alison Mitchell explained GOP strategy. Deja vu, anybody? Here’s how that report began, more than five years back:

MITCHELL (5/19/99): After years of battling with President Clinton, House Republicans are shifting their sights to Vice President Al Gore and using ridicule as their weapon of choice.

The office of the House majority leader, Representative Dick Armey of Texas, has become an unofficial clearinghouse of anti-Gore press releases and activity, with Mr. Armey mocking Mr. Gore over his pronouncements on air travel, the Internet and traffic congestion.

By this time, of course, the RNC already had the press a-twitter with bogus claims about “inventing the Internet” and “inspiring Love Story.” Quoting directly from Republican sources, Mitchell explained the party’s thinking:
MITCHELL: For years Congress ran multiple investigations of Mr. Clinton. But with Mr. Gore, Republicans are betting that well-timed ridicule can be more devastating than any inquiry. In essence, they are trying to do to him what Democrats tried to do to former Vice President Dan Quayle: make him the foil for comedians on late-night television.

"On the Republican side, we are more sensitive to this, having watched what happened to Quayle," said Representative David M. McIntosh of Indiana, a former Quayle aide who is one of the organizers of the readings from Mr. Gore's book. "You can't make somebody funny when they are not providing the material," Mr. McIntosh said, adding that Mr. Gore "provides a lot of it."

But of course, you can make someone the objective of ridicule when they don’t provide the material. It’s easy: You invent bogus stories; recite them endlessly; and then you rely on Democratic partisans to be too inept to refute them. In the case of Gore, for example, you claim he said he invented the Internet. You repeat the claim for two solid years—and rely on the Washington press corp to ignore, reinforce or recite it.

In Kerry’s case, the strategy is already active—and hapless Dem partisans are playing the role they played four years ago. How to make Kerry the object of ridicule when he isn’t providing material? Easy! For one thing, you can say he is “the number one liberal in the Senate”—and rely on hapless Democrat partisans not to be able to answer the charge. We saw that pattern played out Friday night in that gruesome cable exchange with Sean Hannity. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/2/04—but be sure you’re sitting down when you do so.

To their credit, it isn’t like the RNC doesn’t tell us what they’re doing. But then, they’re willing to do so for an obvious reason. They know that “good guy” pundits are so inept that, even handed the RNC plan, they’ll be completely unable to counter it. Dems will send partisans off to war unarmed, inept, unprepared, unable. Last Friday, Hannity ate Janeane Garofalo for lunch. And how do Dems respond to the carnage? Of course—they send us whining e-mails! They tell us that we hurt Janeane’s feelings when we so rudely point this out.

But then, this is the way your “good guy” pundits lost the race four years ago. Republican strategists laugh in their faces—and, after all, why shouldn’t they? When it comes to losing elections, these folks are the ruling masters. They proved this point four years ago. Hannity understands this point well.

TOMORROW (PART 2): What did Dems tell Alison Mitchell? Also: Jon Stewart v. the Post editorial.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? For a lengthy discussion of this iconic nonsense, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02.

BROOKS’ BROTHER: The scripts and spin-points are never hidden; to be effective, they must be recited. Current points are there for all to see—for example, in Saturday’s David Brooks column:

BROOKS: [T]hough convention viewers may not be aware of it, Kerry has actually had a career since his four months in Vietnam—mostly in the Senate. It's not true that Kerry is a flaming lefty (he's a genuine budget hawk and he voted for welfare reform), but he was wrong about just about every major foreign policy judgment of the last two decades. He voted against the first gulf war, against many major weapons systems. He fought to reduce the defense budget. He opposed the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in the early 1980's. He supported the nuclear freeze. His decision to authorize war in Iraq but vote against financing the occupation is the least intellectually coherent position of all possible alternatives.
Brooks, not willing to mislead as clownishly as major Reps do, scales back some of the basic spin-points. Kerry “voted against many major weapons systems,” he says, with admirable imprecision. (RNC cable hacks use the word “every.”) He “fought to reduce the defense budget,” Brooks writes—but then, so did Dick Cheney, as Defense Secretary. And Kerry isn’t a flaming lefty, Brooks says—without telling us why the president’s men are calling him the Senate’s top lefty. But then, why should Brooks explain this point? Kerry’s defenders, on cable TV, are unwilling, unable to do so.

Yes, Brooks tones down a bit of the bullroar which voters hear every day, every hour. But scripts get passed from hand to hand, as press hacks repeat one another. For example, here is Brooks on July 31—and Nantucket’s Tim Russert, one day later:

BROOKS (7/31/04): His decision to authorize war in Iraq but vote against financing the occupation is the least intellectually coherent position of all possible alternatives.

RUSSERT (8/1/04): Would it have been more intellectually honest for John Kerry to have voted against the authorization for war and then voted for the $87 billion once the troops were on the ground?

Yes, they do get the Times on Nantucket! For the record, Biden gave a hopeless answer to Russert’s question, which was scripted by Brooks. Here’s what Biden might have said if he’d tried to serve John Kerry—or the public interest:
IMPROVED ANSWER: Tim, that’s absurd—Kerry’s position was perfectly honest. I mean, President Bush made the decision to the troops to war—then he threatened to veto the $87 billion, a week after Kerry cast his vote! President Bush said he would veto that very same $87 billion! But Tim, there was nothing wrong with Bush’s veto threat, and there was nothing wrong with Kerry’s vote. Indeed, as I told you a moment ago, Kerry’s concern about that reconstruction money has turned out to be quite well founded. His concern about Bush’s lack of a plan turned out to be right on-target...
That’s what Biden might have said if he’d wanted to shoot down a powerful script. But at any rate, look at Brooks, then at Russert. That’s the way these scripts get passed, from one script-reader to another. And in the course of the next few months, such scripts are going to come thick and fast. And why not? Hannity knows he can recite the most overtly false of all these scripts with a “good guy” pundit sitting right there beside him! Where does Hannity get this chutzpah—these nerves of steel? Easy! He remembers what happened four years ago. He knows his guests won’t be prepared.