The Republican Party and its allies, frantic as President Bush's poll ratings drop and questions persist about the administration's war motives and Bush's guard duty, have tried making all manner of dirt stick to John Kerry as he emerges as the Democratic front-runner -- and polls show he'd beat Bush in a head-to-head contest.
Let's review the GOP shock and awe campaign against Kerry from just the last two days. The Bush-Cheney '04 Web site unleashed an attack video to 6 million email subscribers last night, called Unprincipled, Chapter 1. The video accuses Kerry of being beholden to special interests. That came hours after Republicans circulated an email highlighting an editorial that criticized Kerry's "shifting stands." Republicans also planted a photo from a 1970 anti-war rally in various media outlets, showing Kerry sitting feet behind Jane Fonda, in an attempt to associate Kerry with Fonda's controversial trip to Hanoi two years after the photo was taken. (Another photo, of Kerry and Fonda next to each other, was mentioned in today's New York Times, but turns out to be a doctored image. Thanks to Atrios for pointing it out.) Never mind the dirty tricks evident on Matt Drudge's "world exclusive" from Thursday -- still his to own because no one else can confirm it -- about Kerry's "intern" problem.
As ABC's The Note noted this morning, "[Republicans] want the daily negative political stories to start being about Kerry, and stop being about Bush. "See, for example, Ed Gillespie's Thursday sleight-of-hand speech in Nevada, in which he pulls every possible and imaginable newspaper quote to 'demonstrate' that the Kerry campaign will be historically rough and negative in going after the President, and simultaneously goes after Kerry!"
Calling it "sleight-of-hand" is being kind to Gillespie. One might take Gillespie's speech, substitute Bush for Kerry, Republican for Democrat, etc., and get something closer to the truth.
Here's Gillespie: "One of Senator Kerrys campaign consultants was recently quoted in the New York Times saying, 'Everything is on the table. Everything.' We know that 'everything' means making slanderous charges against the President of the United States, funneling money to shadow organizations, engaging in voter suppression tactics, and spreading lies on the Internet. It's only February and they have made clear they intend to run the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics. This is because they don't want a debate on the issues, and they don't want to run on Sen. Kerry's record. I guess I can't blame them for that. We as a party cannot sink to their level. We must stick to the truth in this race."
Kerry's response to the GOP assault was predictable, if you've heard his stump speech recently: "Bring it on," he said.
"We've seen evidence. We know exactly where these guys are gonna go, and I'm ready for it," Kerry told radio broadcaster Don Imus today. "I've been at this for a while, Don, and I've been through some tough races. I've been pretty well, you know, vetted and examined from one side to the other. And I think that they're in for a surprise. I'm going to fight back. I am a fighter, and I'm ready to fight back."