John Kerry's political meltdown is happening even more quickly than I thought it would.
Everyone who has observed politics for any period of time will realize that there is a certain amount of "tuning" of the message that candidates do, depending on the audience in front of them. When speaking to a rural audience the candidate will play up his support for agricultural subsidies. When addressing an urban audience he will speak about his desire to build roads. This is par for the course - to be expected. John Kerry, though, has taken flip-flopping to extremes. Even Democrats admit this. He has not just "tuned" the message to amplify his strengths; he has delivered many directly contradictory messages. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," is just one example.
Now, John Kerry's basic honesty is under attack, not by his Republican opponents, but by John Kerry himself. He claims he doesn't own an SUV, except that he does. He didn't throw his medals over the White House fence, except that he did. That’s just claims he’s made this week. I’m reminded of the scene in Jim Carrey's movie “Liar, Liar” where he is beating himself up in the restroom.
Guy in the Washroom: What're you doing?
Fletcher: I'm kicking my ass! Do you mind?!
I realize that the odds of Democrats actually figuring out that their candidate is a stiff are pretty remote. The odds of their doing anything about it are even more remote. I feel like I should be made to wear a tinfoil hat for even entertaining such ideas, but I was a boy scout (and I've always enjoyed Tom Lehrer) so I'm going to stick with the defense that it's always better to be prepared. So here goes:
In the name of being prepared, it's time to start examining the possibility, however unlikely, that Democrats will begin calling for Kerry to step aside and ask someone like Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards to take over. Someone - anyone who has a chance of surviving the campaign until November.
The first thing to do is figure out how long they have to pull it off. There seems to be a deadline for filing the required petitions on September 3rd. So they have at least that long. Longer if you factor in the Torricelli Defense. With the Torricelli/Lautenberg and the Wellstone/Mondale switches already under their belts, it's safe to assume they will not hesitate to try it again. The legal deadlines did not stop them in either of those cases so I would not expect Democrats to give them a second thought this time.
They will either have to find a way to demonize John Kerry, or they will have to find an "honorable" way for him to withdraw while saving face. If they choose to demonize they will want to take into account how they, the Democratic Party, look while making the switch. They'll want to look like they got duped by a conniving John Kerry. As if they were taken in hook, line and sinker - just like the rest of America (even though the reason they would need to use the Torricelli Defense is because the rest of America was not taken in). Moral indignance will be the emotion of the day. This is relatively safe ground for Democrats, victims that they are. It’ll start like this, “I/we can’t believe he didn’t tell us… (fill in the blank).”
If they choose "honorable withdrawal" the usual method would be to claim health problems or family issues. Kerry has had some health problems and, god forbid that they should return, they could provide an out if they "recur."
The Democratic convention is July 26 to July 29. That's still a long time from now when you take into account the extremely short news cycles we have today. If they moved before Kerry was officially nominated at the convention, I think Democrat voters would feel cheated. They would need to wait until afterward.
I think the best time for them to go for the switch would be during the Republican convention. The Republican convention is August 30 to September 2nd. It ends the day before the deadline for filing the petitions, and that provides two major advantages. First, the Republican leadership will be extremely preoccupied with the convention and it will be more difficult to respond quickly to Democrat tactics. Responding quickly would be essential with only days before the deadline. Second, all attention would be drawn away from the Republicans, minimizing the traditional bump in the polls that comes from a convention.
I know it’s crazy but, ever since Bill Clinton I’m just not willing to rule out anything. So what do you think?