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Time for succinct and lethal responses 

Joe Klein has an interesting column in Time. One powerful jibe: “[White House press secretary] Scott McClellan is beginning to sound like Baghdad Bob, the infamous spokesman for Saddam who announced hallucinatory Iraqi victories as the American troops closed in on Baghdad.”

And a tough judgment on the debates:

  I’ve never seen George Bush lose a debate. He is a brilliant minimalist. Kerry by contrast is all oratorical flab — although he did begin to show some signs of life last week in a solid speech to the National Guard convention, in which he blasted Bush’s “fantasy of spin” about Iraq. It is a powerful fantasy, though. And it is easy to predict Bush’s response to any Kerry criticism about Iraq: “My opponent is too pessimistic,” the President will say. “See, what he doesn’t understand is that the President of the United States has to stand firm. We can’t show weakness. And we won’t on my watch.” Unless Kerry can come off with a succinct, and lethal, response to those vaporous but compelling platitudes, he will lose this election.

The question that dare not speak its name 

Matthew Yglesias ponders whether the Democratic party would be better off with Howard Dean after all. The logic is that a clear anti-war candidate could say, “I will never hesitate to use force — unilaterally when necessary — to defend the United States of America. The Iraq War did not defend America.” But on a Dean candidacy he concludes:

  But could Howard Dean have credibly made such a case? I rather doubt it. Tony Zinni could have done it just fine (the fact that he’s not a Democrat and seems to have all sorts of rightwing views would, of course, have been a stumbling block in securing the nomination), but a former governor of a small New England state surrounded by peacenik camp followers who sat out Vietnam with a bad back? I don’t see it.

The reason such a question is even being asked was summed up by the BBC’s Washington correspondent Matt Frei on the news last night. “You can find millions of Republicans who are wildly enthusiastic about George Bush,” he said. “But I haven’t found one Democrat who is wildly enthusiastic about John Kerry.”

Still, we have to play with the hand we’ve been dealt. My hopes are beginning to feel rather threadbare at the moment, however.

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