I think that Bush has a significant advantage over his opponents in the AWOL story.
He knows what really happened.
Everybody else is just guessing, but Bush knows. This gives him an enormous strategic advantage. His opponents don’t really know what happened so they expend a great deal of resources chasing mirages and basing strategy on them.
It is not just that Bush was involved with the actual events but that he remembers them without advantages. He has stuck to the exact same line for 10 years: he fulfilled his obligations. Nothing fancy, just the basics. He deftly flips the ball back across the net each time, basically saying, “I fulfilled my obligations, prove I didn’t.” He feels safe doing so because he knows that while he might have bent some rules, he never broke them. He can safely let his opponents poke around all they want, there is nothing to find. He knows he is safe from attack from that direction. He did not panic when the forged documents came out because he understood they would ultimately be an ineffective attack.
I think Kerry got blindsided by the Swiftvets because he doesn’t really know what happened. He was there, but he remembers with such advantages that it never occurred to him that others that were there as well would have anything but glowing memories of his service. Nobody ever seems to have questioned his “Christmas in Cambodia” story and he retold it so many times I think he honestly believes it himself. The same holds true for his anti-war activities. He remembers the adoration he received from the Leftist intelligentsia but not the fury and hatred he engendered in the majority of veterans.
Bush and Kerry are like two opposing generals. Bush has a realistic understanding of the disposition of his own troops but Kerry does not. Kerry cannot predict the consequences of an enemy movement because he doesn’t know where his own forces are. Kerry ignored the Swiftvets because he never understood that he was in anyway vulnerable to attacks on his wartime service. The attack fell upon a weak point he did not even imagine existed. Worse, it was a weak point he believed was a strong point.
Bush’s business and personal failures in the mid-80’s forced upon him a self-reexamination rare in people involved in politics. I think it knocked the arrogance out him and let him look at himself in a ruthlessly honest fashion. He understands himself and this in turn gives him a good idea of how others see him as well. That’s a tremendous advantage for a politician.
To defeat Bush, Kerry must first truly understand himself. I don’t think he has the inclination, nor the time left, to do so.
6 thoughts on “To Thy Own Self Be True”
I think you have this exactly right. Also Bush doesn’t seem to derive his sense of self-worth from the opinions of others. That’s a common weakness in politicians.
I look forward eagerly to the memoirs and histories yet to come.
Did the WH know the memos were faked? (Bush, after all, is probably the best living “expert” on Bush/TexANG memos) Did they pass them on to the press knowing they were a ticking bomb?
Did Bush the poker player sucker the Dems by pretending to hold a weak hand? Bush’s service record is actually good enough to brag about, if he wanted to do such a tacky thing. I recently read that his total of points would equal the requirements for 12 years in the ANG…
I don’t think that Bush knew much about the memos. According to a story I just read, the Whitehouse only had a chance to examine the documents for three hours to examine before CBS ran with the story.
I think what the Whitehouse actually told CBS was not, “we don’t contest the authority of the memos,” but rather, “we don’t know anything about them one way or the other.” Except for the order to report, Bush would not have been expected to have seen any of the documents.
Bush doesn’t have the maniacal urge to control everybody’s perception of a story that is common in the media saturated elites of Washington. I think CBS assumed that a statement of “don’t know” or “no comment” constituted an admission of authenticity because most politicians would have tried to counter-attack violently in the same circumstances. I think the Whitehouse said, “We don’t know” and CBS heard, “We’re saying no comment because the documents are authentic but we don’t dare come out and say that directly.”
CBS heard what they wanted to hear. They were trapped by their own preconceptions and their cynical view of politics.
“CBS heard what they wanted to hear. They were trapped by their own preconceptions and their cynical view of politics.” And in the process, allowed to jump right off a cliff. Funny how that all worked out.
Usually, I don’t know means I don’t know.
Ahhh, that tricky Bush – most of the time he actually means what he says. And they haven’t learned that yet.
“Tell the truth, and so puzzle and confound your adversaries.”
– Sir Henry Wotton
(And in honor of the day, I should add “… the scurvy dogs!”)
The reason, I believe, that Bush’s oponents don’t believe that what he says is what he means is the classic psychological concept of projection. His openents don’t say what they mean, so Bush could not possibly say what he means particularly given the quantity and viciousness of the attacks against him.
Heck, he even fools his allies.
I look forward to the time when the fog has lifted and the analysis is done on Bush’s apparent extroardinary political skills. That is not to say I agree with everything he does, but I admire the way his skills. I think his political skills are another level to Clinton’s who is clever but ultimately, I think, a bit overrated.
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