Preposterous Universe

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Strategic withholding

Is it just possible that the Kerry campaign is being very clever?

If there is one thing we have learned about the Bush administration/campaign, it's that they fold instantly under political pressure. To prevent stories from festering, they happily reverse direction under the slightest provocation, or at least claim to. Think of military records, only giving one hour to the 9/11 commission, Rice's public testimony, the appointment of outsourcer Tony Raimondo as assistant secretary of Commerce, etc. And basically, the strategy has worked; what might have been long-lasting criticisms of the administration rapidly drop off the radar screen.

That's why the Kerry campaign should not make too big a deal out of Bush and Cheney appearing before the 9/11 commission together -- at least not yet. Let them actually do it, first. It's such a ridiculous situation, easily made fun of in debates (or on late-night talk shows), and speaks so directly to one of Bush's weaknesses, it would be a shame to lose it. Let them wound themselves, and take advantage later.

I was reminded of this when the cry went up from Republicans for Kerry to release his military records. I hadn't realized that they weren't already public, and certainly there's always the possibility of some lurking embarrassment. But now they've been released, and what do you know -- they make Kerry look great. And all of the articles about it will obviously offer a comparison to Bush's sad record, which brings that story back into the news. (Explicit comparison made over at Daily Kos here and here.)

Could it actually be that the Kerry people had purposefully not released the records, hoping that at some point the Republicans would notice, and provide an opportunity for some free publicity for how wonderful Kerry is? I'm reluctant to give them that much credit, but it's a possibility.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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