Grasping at Straw Men

Cynthia Moothart

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Moments after John Edwards was named Democratic vice presidential candidate, the Republican National Committee Web site released 28 pages of answers” to its own question: WHO IS JOHN EDWARDS?”

Edwards Lacks Accomplishments And Demonstrated Leadership Needed To Be President,” the RNC warned. They blasted the senator from North Carolina for being Disingenuous,” lodging at Swank Hotels” and cozying up to, you guessed it, special interests. Then they let loose this bombshell: Edwards Doesn’t Follow Weekly NASCAR Races”!

Equal only to its scandalous idiocy and predictable hypocrisy was the breakneck efficiency with which this IN DEPTH” attack was proffered to media outlets nationwide — making it the second Shock and Awe campaign of this corrupt administration.

Whoa, what’s the hurry there, boys? Edwards had been on the ticket less than five minutes.

Polls consistently show that President Bush is losing stock with ever more Americans on a growing list of issues. Take the war on terror, the linchpin of his reelection bid. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from late June showed that 52 percent of Americans do not believe the war with Iraq was worth fighting, the first time a majority expressed doubts about the president’s foreign policy agenda. The Gallup Organization found that number to be even higher, at 55 percent.

This decline corresponds with other data from the same period. A poll conducted for National Public Radio indicated that 54 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, nearly matching the 58 percent who told Gallup they disapprove of Bush’s handling of the economy. The bipartisan Battleground Poll reported that 51 percent of likely voters nationwide said it is time to give someone else a chance to be president, up 2 percentage points from the month before. And it’s a well-worn fact that John Kerry tops Bush on big domestic issues like education, healthcare, Social Security and federal spending.

Lacking credibility on any issue, what do Republicans have left? More lies.

Words such as specious,” disingenuous,” false,” bogus,” misleading” and unfair” have been used by impartial outsiders to describe the GOP’s first round of attack ads. Trouble is, these specious, disingenuous, false, bogus, misleading and unfair ads worked magic.

After winning the Democratic primaries in early March, voters viewed Kerry favorably by a 2‑to‑1 margin. Following the Bush-Cheney smear campaign, the Pew Research Center found in mid-June that only half viewed Kerry favorably and four in 10 viewed him unfavorably. When asked to evaluate the candidates as people, the Battleground Poll also found a near-consistent split favoring Bush:

  • Says what he believes”:57 percent Bush, 34 percent Kerry.
  • Steady, consistent leader”: 54 percent, 37 percent.
  • Represents my values”: 48 percent, 44 percent.
  • Is honest and trustworthy”: 45 percent, 42 percent.

Kerry’s one win in the poll came when voters were asked which candidate cares about people like me,” topping Bush 46 percent to 41 percent.

With their crusade against Kerry complete, Republicans stopped running ads for several days in June.

But the timing and volume of their July 6 attack indicates that White House strategists know they won’t have it so easy with the personable Edwards, renowned for his ability to connect with voters.

So the GOP came out hard and fast and told a few more fibs. And offered such revelations as EDWARDS IS PHONY AND DISINGENUOUS.” After all, this so-called Southerner Hasn’t Hunted Or Fished In Years,’ ” Can’t Even Remember Make Or Model Of His Own Truck” and Has Never Done Any Serious Farming” —certainly all qualities Needed To Be President,” as gop​.com maintains.

Wait a minute. Isn’t Edwards second on the ticket? Oh, why let a few facts get in the way.

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Cynthia Moothart is managing editor for content at In These Times.
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