Attack! Attack! Attack!

Note to John Kerry: Win first, apologize later.

Attack! Attack! Attack!

TO ALL YOU whiners who thought I was too mean to Ralph Nader, hitch up your Pampers. Super Tuesday is officially in the books, John Kerry is going to get the Democratic presidential nomination in his hometown of Boston, and Hobbes and Darwin are about to make some seriously brutish sausage right in front of our innocent American eyes.

Election 2004 won’t be for the squeamish. Regime change? We know how the current regime deals with upstarts. Think of Florida in 2000; remember Afghanistan and Iraq; ponder the fate of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who received a late-night visit from U.S. Marines and a one-way ticket to Africa. The guys in power play rough, and they play for keeps.

Already, they’re framing the campaign. John Kerry, they say, is the new Michael Dukakis—”Déjà Duke,” in the phrase of Boston Herald columnist and radio host Howie Carr. No, he’s worse than Dukakis—a guy more liberal (if that’s possible!) than Ted Kennedy. He’s not just the senator from Taxachusetts, he’s the homo lover from Gaymarriageachusetts, home of queer Congressman Barney Frank! Plus, Kerry’s an intern-loving dirty old man from Chappaquiddickachusetts! The Republicans have raised megamillions to ram his “two-faced” Senate record up his Assachusetts!

Already taking center stage in this drama is the ghost of Lee Atwater, protégé of the late South Carolina segregationist senator, Strom Thurmond, and personal Machiavelli to George Bush Sr. He’s the man credited with coining “wedge issue.” On his deathbed, he apologized for saying of Dukakis that he’d “strip the bark off the little bastard” and “make Willie Horton his running mate.” His repentance made good press at the time of his death from a brain tumor in 1991, but his methods are still a blueprint for how we the living can run and win a nasty campaign.

Dubya is listening, and the wedges are being forged as we speak.

Not long ago on the TV talkfest The McLaughlin Group—a gathering which seems like a staid Republican tea party in this era of Michael Savages and Ann Coulters—a question was asked. Jabba the Host John McLaughlin wondered if the GOP could afford to run only on “God, gays, and guns.” What else is there? chuckled an astonished Pat Buchanan. Fellow pundits mumbled that there are other issues—the economy, security, blah, blah. But if this election is close—and that is by no means a sure thing—slowing Kerry with some major wedgies may be the only way to win. A close election means mobilizing micro-constituencies that might otherwise be sitting on the sidelines, protecting their flags from being burned or their copy of the Ten Commandments from being used as godless commie toilet paper. Liberals are going to need their wedge-motivated voters, too—at least the ones without straitjackets who won’t be voting for St. Ralph.

NOW IT WON’T do for the Democrats to run a noble campaign. Moral superiority in American politics is for losers (check the encyclopedia entry under “Mondale”); moral flexibility is for winners (check entry under “Clinton”). Liberals who have an abundance of moral superiority need to check it at the door.

Liberals also need to learn how to win again. For that, go to the experts: the Republicans. There’s no shame in it. In their political how-to from ’02—Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up, former Clinton-War-Roomers-turned-TV-talking-heads Paul Begala and James Carville outline how to run a winning campaign. Like Shakespeare, they know genius is at least one part plagiarism. Take the chapter titled “Kick Ass.” Here they take a lesson from “political mastermind” Roger Ailes, the Dr. Evil of modern politics who gave us Reagan, Bush Sr., Nixon, and Fox News—in short, everything but genital herpes. They write, “according to Ailes, the press likes to cover only four things in politics: scandals, gaffes, polls, and attacks. Three of them are bad. So if you want to get in the paper, get your butt on the offensive. . . . ” They go on to invoke the name of that great progressive, Gen. George Patton, who looked better than Dukakis in a tank. Patton could slap sense into weak-kneed foot soldiers, and did.

They advise “hard-hitting” attacks, but with a “soft touch” (smile humbly when you’re slipping the knife in, like Reagan did), and they offer lessons on how to counterpunch, promising that, if done effectively, your “opponent’s jab will be blunted . . . [while] your right fist will be doing a dance on your opponent’s face.” Yes, it sounds violent and Fight Club-y. Call it Dances With Fists. If you worry that it’s primal politics filled with too much testosterone, ask yourself: Isn’t this what testosterone’s for?

Remember, your opponents are the guys who turned a multiple-amputee war hero, Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, into an unemployed doormat by suggesting he hadn’t lost enough limbs fighting for his country in Vietnam. And that’s the least of their crimes.

SO IN 2004, forget vigils, puppets, and peace marches, pack away your sea turtle costumes, get out your checkbooks, and strap on your strap-ons. You soccer moms, go knee those NASCAR dads in the groin!

If you want to take this country back, you’re going to have to fight for it.

You can always apologize on your deathbed.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Washington health officials discuss response to new COVID variant

Things will be handled with Omicron variant similar to the Delta variant.

File photo
As new COVID-19 variant looms, vaccination disparities linger in King County

County data shows gaps among age, geography and race.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Dunn will challenge Rep. Kim Schrier for U.S. Congress seat

The current County Councilmember would be following in his late mother’s footsteps

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”