Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Christopher Hitchens. The group lunch stretched well into the late afternoon and to make my fellow bloggers jealous, I’ll add that it included everything you’d want in a Hitchens experience (Iraq, Afghanistan, Bush jokes, atheism, Hillary takes, Michael Moore, wine, scotch, smokes and Mother Teresa).
While most the afternoon was focused on Iraq, Afghanistan, religion, etc., Hitch did spend a few moments on the swiftboat controversy when he explained that Kerry, of all people, had to know that the swift boat veterans would be on the attack once he got the nomination. This issue has been brewing for three decades. What were the odds that Kerry’s longtime foes would resist this final battle?
Josh Marshall makes a similar point as he explains that the anti-Kerry ads are not merely a response to the Kerry focus on service during the convention: “This was always in the cards. Always. Thus the need to get out early making the case in Kerry’s favor. Since it was coming anyway, far better to hit it with the wind at your back than sitting still. The Kerry campaign’s only mistake — and it was no small one — was not getting out ahead of it sooner.”
One does wonder, then, why the Kerry campaign was not more ready to deal with these attacks. Perhaps they didn’t imagine (ignoring a nearly constant flow of contrary evidence) that the media would first give endless exposure to the charges and only later begin to dismantle them. Or maybe they think this issue ultimately hurts Bush for looking like an attacker. I would argue that everyday spent on Vietnam (and away from a close look at the Bush record) is a winning day for the Bush team.
If you acknowledge that the last couple of weeks haven’t been particularly good ones for the Kerry team, then you have to ask yourself if there is any possible way they could’ve better dealt with this attack they had to know was coming. And they had thirty years to come up with the right gameplan.