Monday, September 06, 2004

Clinton Gives Some Sound Advice

It's staggering that it should take a message from a Bill Clinton awaiting surgery for it to get across to the Kerry campaign that the fixation on Vietnam is actually harming his election effort, not helping it.

Former President Bill Clinton, in a 90-minute telephone conversation from his hospital room, offered John Kerry detailed advice on Saturday night on how to reinvigorate his candidacy, as Mr. Kerry enlisted more Clinton advisers to help shape his strategy and message for the remainder of the campaign.

In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton, who is awaiting heart surgery, told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with President Bush on job creation and health care policies, officials with knowledge of the conversation said.

The conversation and the recruitment of old Clinton hands came amid rising concern among Democrats about the state of Mr. Kerry's campaign and criticism that he had been too slow to respond to attacks on his military record or to engage Mr. Bush on domestic policy. Among the better-known former Clinton aides who are expected to play an increasingly prominent role are James Carville, Paul Begala and Stanley Greenberg, campaign aides said.
This is all very sound advice. Here we are with a President whose last four years in office have been a farrago of poorly thought through policies poorly executed, and yet the challenger is struggling to overcome an 11-point polling deficit a mere 60 days before the election? Talk about throwing away an excellent hand! Kerry should never have made refighting Vietnam the central issue of his campaign; instead he should have concentrated on articulating what his planned policies for the future were and how he differed from Bush on the issues. That he failed to do so suggests that he doesn't actually have a positive vision of the future to sell to voters, other than "I'm not Bush."