Interestingly, I have somehow gotten on the email list for the "Bush-Cheney '04 Grassroots Team." Here's their response to the story:
In response to President Bush's Agenda for America's Future and a critique of his policies and Senate record, Senator Kerry's campaign is implementing a strategy of vicious personal attacks against the President and Vice President.Anybody notice how the Repubs decry the so-called personal attacks, and in the same literary breath, they do the same thing! (see "bevy of Clinton henchmen"] What's happening is that they are muddying the water so throroughly that no one knows what to believe, and in the absence of strong evidence one way or the other, the tendency is to retain the status quo. This tactic, by the way, is commonly practiced by defense lawyers; make it so confusing that the jury has no idea whether the plaintiff's case has merit. In the absence of clear evidence, the jury is inclined to leave things the way they are and not deliver a verdict for the plaintiff.
The campaign is bringing in a bevy of former Clinton henchmen, including CNN commentators James Carville and Paul Begala. In August alone, Begala called President Bush a "gutless wonder," said he has a "lack of intelligence," and called Vice President Cheney a "dirt bag." Carville said the President is "ignorant big time" and said "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are a couple of nobodies."
It's not like Bob Shrum needed encouragement to engage in personal attacks. At a Kerry rally Friday morning in Ohio, campaign surrogate John Glenn compared the Republican Convention to a Nazi rally, and Kerry called the President unfit to lead our nation and once again sought to divide the country by who served and how 35 years ago.
Of course, the President was called a "cheap thug," a "killer" and a "liar" at a Kerry-Edwards campaign event in New York, Mrs. Kerry has called the President's policies "unpatriotic" and "immoral" and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe falsely accused the President of being AWOL.
Democratic strategist Susan Estrich outlined the strategy last Wednesday in a column warning Republicans to "watch out." "I'm not promising pretty," she wrote before going on to call President Bush and Vice President Cheney alcoholics, then ask "is any alcoholic ever really cured?" ("I can see the ad now.") She deems the President's service as a National Guard fighter pilot "draft dodging," and says, "a forthcoming book by Kitty Kelly raises questions about whether the President has practiced what he preaches on the issue of abortion." (Interestingly, the New York Daily News reported back in February that the Kerry campaign intended to spread such a rumor in pro-life chat rooms late in the campaign.)
So the former Dukakis campaign manager has an advance copy of Democrat donor Kitty Kelly's book, which promises to throw unsubstantiated gossip at President Bush in the same way she falsely maligned the late President Reagan as a date rapist who paid for a girlfriend's abortion and wrongly castigated Nancy Reagan as an adulterer who had an affair with Frank Sinatra. A recent story says Kelly's book alleges President Bush used cocaine at Camp David while his father was President, which is as credible as her story that then Governor and Nancy Reagan smoked marijuana with Jack Benny and George and Gracie Burns.
And tonight on CBS, longtime Democratic operative Ben Barnes-a friend of, major contributor to and Nantucket neighbor of Senator Kerry's and vice chair of the Kerry Campaign--will repudiate his statement under oath that he had no contact with the Bush family concerning the President's National Guard service. (Anyone surprised that Barnes would contradict a statement he made under oath probably doesn't know his long history of political scandal and financial misdealings.)
So brace yourselves. Any mention of John Kerry's votes for higher taxes and against vital weapons programs will be met with the worst kind of personal attacks. Such desperation is unbecoming of American Presidential politics, and Senator Kerry will pay a price for it at the polls as we stay focused on policies to continue growing our economy and winning the War on Terror.
Kerry is the plaintiff here, and he is losing his case.
UPDATE: The New Republic, in commenting on this story, slams Ed Gillespie for the above "panicky" memo that he wrote, saying, "Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RNC, circulated a panicky memo to supporters on Wednesday claiming that Barnes "will repudiate his statement under oath that he had no contact with the Bush family concerning the President's National Guard service." Gillespie's statement proved to be absolutely false." The article points out that Barnes's interview was completely consistent with his previous story. Ryan Lizza's article goes on to say:
CBS obtained four documents from the personal papers of Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, Bush's Texas National Guard squadron commander. These memos tell a fascinating story about the struggle of a by-the-book commander caught between a self-important young pilot trying to cut corners and wriggle out of the rest of his Guard commitment, and superiors who seem all too willing to let the privileged son of a Texas VIP bend the rules.
That's the real story here, if we're interested in character as an issue. Kerry didn't duck Vietnam service; he volunteered for it. Bush not only ducked Vietnam, he couldn't be bothered to do his duty, even though it was [relatively] cushy state-side pilot training and physicals.
I still say, though, that the Kerry poeple need to ignore the issue and just let the media run with it, if they want.