I’m not generally in the habit of agreeing with Josh Marshall, but today I’ll give him partial credit for getting the meta view correctly.
In the last few days I’ve gotten various emails from critics (gleefully) and supporters (frettingly) of Kerry either wondering or simply asserting that Kerry brought this on himself by highlighting his service in combat in Vietnam. The point is echoed by reporters who sheepishly hang the attention they’ve given to the Swift Boat group on Kerry’s having ‘made his service an issue.’
For Kerry supporters or Democrats who think this may be true, I can only ask you, please, please do not be such chumps. And for his critics, please allow your punches to the groin the purity of their cynicism, without sullying them with any claims that Kerry forced your hand.
This was always in the cards. Always. Thus the need to get out early making the case in Kerry’s favor. Since it was coming anyway, far better to hit it with the wind at your back than sitting still. The Kerry campaign’s only mistake — and it was no small one — was not getting out ahead of it sooner.I’m on record as wondering (in February 2004) how Kerry would navigate the minefield that is his past in a general election.
Kerry’s DNC performance did highlight the fact that the self proclaimed “war hero” had not been challenged on his Vietnam era record by his Democratic primary rivals. Democrats rolled the dice that Kerry’s anti-war grandstanding and lying would not be a topic of debate this close to the election. Perhaps they figured the good old mainstream media would give Kerry the kid glove treatment.
Update: Jeff Quinton notes that there may be a Swift Vets’ October surprise.