Last night I watched Bill Clinton on the Daily Show. He was alright, a lot of the things he said were the same things he’s said every other time I’ve seen him interviewed lately. We can all be thankful that John Stewart didn’t waste his brief window of opportunity to ask Clinton yet more questions about Monica Lewinsky, it’s not like Clinton is going to say something new about that to Jon Stewart that he hasn’t already said to someone else. Anyway, I’m constantly amazed by Clinton’s political smarts. He knows that this election hinges on wooing swing voters and disaffected Republicans to the John Kerry camp, and he also knows that he carries enough baggage that drawing comparisons between he and Kerry will not win anyone over to Kerry’s cause. Instead, he’s doing everything he can to associate himself with President Bush and Dick Cheney by constantly comparing his avoiding the Vietnam War with their decision to do so, and contrasting that to Kerry’s decision to serve. Clinton knows that Republicans hate him more than anything, and that the best way to hurt Bush is to point out how Bush, Cheney, and others did one of the things that Republicans hate him for. That’s one powerful form of judo.
And speaking of service in the Vietnam war, a lot of people wondered why the Democrats spent so much time hyping Kerry’s service in Vietnam in the first place. I think the fact that Kerry’s service compares favorably to Bush’s avoidance, but that’s not the real reason behind it. The real reason is that the one thing Democrats cannot win if they’re perceived as wimps. Americans are sensibly concerned about their security right now, and the Democrats are promising a much less belligerent course for the country than the Republicans. It’s essential that voters percieve that course of action being chosen because Democrats are wise, and not because they’re cowards. Hence, the constant harping on Kerry’s military service.
Finally, I think that Howard Dean has shown lately why it’s a good thing that he lost to John Kerry. There are many things I admire about Dean, including his outspokenness, but accusing the President for issuing terror warnings for political reasons just isn’t that wise. Everyone is free to speculate about why the President issues these warnings, and draw their own conclusions, but making this into a political issue can be damaging to the country. To a great degree, the Bush White House has brought this upon itself by politicizing the terrorism issue, which is bad politics and bad leadership, but I’d like to see Democrats criticize the President for politicizing the issue rather than doing the same thing the White House has done. Every time Clinton used the military in the latter part of his Presidency, he was attacked for attempting to wag the dog by people on both sides, and there’s little doubt that such criticism hurt us in the fight against al-Qaeda. It’s to Clinton’s credit that he didn’t start trotting out intelligence that should have remained secret in order to defend himself. And on that note, I think that hammering the Bush administration for naming the al-Qaeda agent that had been working as a Pakistani informant is perfectly reasonable.