. . . Tuesday October 19, 2004

A Slip of the Terror

Josh Marshall has been pushing hard for an ad that shows President Bush saying he isn’t that concerned about Osama bin Laden. And MoveOn already has one on the air (quicktime version here).

I sort of think it’s a waste of time. Do we really think that catching Bush in this slip of the tongue (even that big of a slip of tongue) is going to move the most intractable undecideds still on the fence? Yes, Bush misspoke during the debate when he called Kerry’s totally correct assertion an “ex-ag-ger-a-tion.” And yes, he looked foolish, two years before, when he said that he wasn’t all that concerned about Osama bin Laden. But pretty much everyone knows that he was simply trying to get the media and public to focus on the broader war on terror and not just one guy (who he frankly knew might not be found before, well, November 2, 2004).

So let’s review. He made a stupid and political statement a couple of years ago. And he looked like a fool when he lied about it (or forgot it) during the debate.

I still don’t think it’s the winning message for the Dems.

The problem that the Dems face (and I think it’s the key problem when it comes to comparing the candidates as leaders in the war on terror) is that more than 40% of Americans still link the war in Iraq with 9-11. More than three in ten Americans believe that Saddam was involved in the planning of the 9-11 attacks. If you can decouple Iraq and 9-11, you win, period.

Forget ad about Bush’s Osama statement. It looks petty and it will not change minds. Focus on the big prize. The Dems have two weeks to convince those 40% of Americans that Saddam had nothing to do 9-11.

And to do that, they simply have to replay, over and over, the words of the Veep who is not known for slips of the tongue or straying off message. When Dick Cheney decoupled Saddam and 9-11, it was by far the most important moment in any of the debates.

This exchange should be the new Democratic ad.

Edwards: “Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission has said it. Your own secretary of state has said it. And you’ve gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not … I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th — period.”

Cheney: “I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11.”

That’s it. I can’t figure out why this message is not being screamed at the top of Democratic lungs from TV to shining TV. It goes to the heart of how the Bush team led this country to the wrong war.

I guarantee that’s it’s a whole lot more compelling than talking about flu shots.

Concentration is important!