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Matt Stoller Headshot

Strength Sells. Show Some.

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To those people who are running scared about John Kerry's misstatement, I have a simple message.  Get some integrity.  John Kerry served in the military and put his life on the line for this country.  He is one of the only sitting Democratic Senators to genuinely oppose this war by taking on his colleague, Senator Lieberman.  He has done a huge amount for candidates this cycle, and will do more in the future.  And yesterday, he misspoke - any one of us could have made that mistake.  The fact that it's a controversy is actually not John Kerry's fault, it's yours.  You bear the responsibility of buying into the fallacy that gaffes like this matter.  You bear the responsibility of equating a slip of the tongue to a war that has killed hundreds of thousands.  

And let's be very clear about the politics.  This gaffe doesn't matter.  No one is going to change their mind about the war because of John Kerry's mistake.  What does matter is your reaction.  The press has set up the rules so that if you're on offense you're winning and if you're on defense you're losing.  It honestly doesn't matter if you, say, attack 9/11 widows or say that someone is faking Parkinson's disease.  It's just offense/defense.  Reporters have decided that printing reactions is their job, and that's life until their circulation drops to the point where they can no longer pay themselves to live in a dreamland composed of their own heroism at reprinting press releases.  And let's be honest and not pretend like this is Kerry's fault; a gaffe like this was inevitable, and if Kerry hadn't said it the Republicans would have manufactured something else.  It's what they do, people.  Come on.

So all of you who have decided that it's good politics to throw Kerry under the bus are both disloyal and strategically short-sighted.  I hope you reconsider your approach, or at least use this as a learning experience.  Let's highlight two candidates and how they reacted, both in red areas.

First is netroots candidate Eric Massa, who is using the gaffe as a way to illuminate his strong character.

Congressional candidate and 24-year Navy veteran Eric Massa today responded to the current flap over Senator John Kerry's remarks about the war in Iraq, and to a request from his opponent, incumbent Randy Kuhl. The Kuhl campaign this morning called on Massa to disavow Kerry's remarks, and to return any money donated from Kerry's Political Action Committee.

Massa said, "Randy Kuhl's so-called challenge is nonsense. Our fighting men and women in Iraq are the finest force in the world, but they're stuck with weak and dishonest civilian leadership. Randy Kuhl has done nothing to support the troops, and just toes the Washington line about 'staying the course.'  General John Batiste characterized Kuhl and his position as 'uninformed' and 'lacking moral courage.' Enough said."

Massa added, "George Bush and John Kerry and Randy Kuhl have had their chance and failed to bring home either victory or the troops. It's time for a change down in Washington, and change is coming on Tuesday."

And now let's go to the opposite extreme, to Harold Ford of the Connecticut for Ford party, who is throwing Kerry under the bus.  Now before I get the 'circular firing squad line', let me point out that Harold Ford is explicitly running against the Democratic Party, and so a blog post against him from a liberal Democrat like me (if it does anything at all) can only help him.  Since he thinks that the Democratic Party and its base are poisonous, he can use me to triangulate and prove that he is anti-government, anti-gay, pro-life, and pro-war.  He can gay-bait away against a cowardly opponent and assume that his obviously corrupt family doesn't matter.  That's fine.  Use this post, Ford, to prove to people like Glenn Reynolds that you are more like him than me.  Of course, Glenn Reynolds after all the handwringing and compliments, voted against you, but hey, he did say that you deserved the vote that he didn't give you.  You don't need to thank me for pointing out that you are in fact out only for yourself, and are openly and consistently disloyal to the Democratic Party in the waning days before the election.  You're busy enough as it is.

Or let's go to Sherrod Brown, who said.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat leading in late polls in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, said Republicans are merely trying to change the subject. "The people who should apologize are George Bush and Mike DeWine for sending our troops into battle without body armor and without examining the cooked intelligence," he said.

That's strength, and that's precisely why insiders didn't want to support Massa until it became screamingly obvious that he was running a great campaign.  Massa has been against torture and against the politicization of 9/11, using all the arguments that DC cowards are afraid to use.  And it's working.  Charlie Brown came out against a gay marriage ban against John Doolittle in a super-red district, and it's working.

The insiders hate this, and they hate us. They throw us under the bus all the time, just like they do it to John Kerry. Go through the Actblue pages of the Senate Democrats - it's not a surprise to me that the Senate Democrats are salivating at Harold Ford's candidacy, while the DCCC waited until last week to add Massa to their Red to Blue list (which if I were a cynic I might suggest was done so that the Red to Blue list could have a higher batting averate post-election, but I'm not a cynic so clearly this was done because his district just became viable.)

Anyway, the point is that loyalty works.  Loyalty sells.  Strength works.  Strength sells.  Show some.