I think the DNC and the Kerry campaign should stop spreading around a petition to urge the firing of Donald Rumsfeld in the wake of the Iraqi prison scandal. I understand the spirit of the effort. I also respect Kerry’s duty to explain how he would be handling the situation (and if that means he’d fire his top man in the Pentagon, it’s worth letting voters know about it).
But I still think the petition as a fundraising and email gathering tool should be stopped now. There are three key reasons for this. Actually, there are probably more, but I’ll stick the ones that only relate to the angle that this is, plain and simple, bad politics.
1. It’s Disingenuous: No one thinks that a Kerry-backed petition will influence the Bush administration in any direction other than away from the Kerry position. The petition, if anything, makes Rummy more secure in his job. Those passing around the virtual petition must be aware of this simple fact. So why start it in the first place?
2. Not Politics: From the beginning of the scandal, many Republicans (including Rumsfeld himself) suggested that calls for the Secretary’s resignation were merely another example of political mudslinging. This analysis was of course wrong. The specific case of the Iraqi prison abuses, and the broader mismanagement of the post-major combat efforts in Iraq, go well beyond political point scoring and personal attacks. The only thing that could possibly change that would be if the Dems piled on and reduced this to a political fight. This was an opportunity to rise above that fray.
3. It’s the Kerry, Stupid: The biggest obstacle for the Kerry campaign thus far is that the campaign has been too focused on President Bush. Bush’s numbers go down. Kerry’s stay flat. If John Kerry is going to introduce himself to the American public, the campaign must be about him. People who are signed up for the Kerry email or who visit the Kerry site already dislike Bush and Rumsfeld. The challenge is the get the focus on Kerry. A simple “No” vote will not decide this election. Using precious email and web real estate to further push voter’s attention towards the Bush team is a step in the wrong direction (even if it results in thousands of newly collected email addresses). The message should not be: Fire Rumsfeld.
It should be: Hire Kerry.