Obama's John Kerry Mistake

08/23/2010 12:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Taylor Marsh Political writer and cultural voyeur, author and speaker.

What is it about Democrats and August?

You don't have to go back to Michael Dukakis, with John Kerry's swiftboating catastrophe one that no Democrat should forget. Kerry shrugged off the insane charges against his military service, never believing it would stick. It wasn't his only problem in 2004, but it was the emotionally sticky issue that revved up the right that made a huge difference in the end. In a midterm election year emotions rule, because it's the one element that can get out the vote better than any other.

President Obama made a correct and carefully worded statement at the Ramadan Iftar dinner, which illustrated courageous leadership akin to Mayor Bloomberg's. Unfortunately, it was followed by a statement on Saturday that gave the perception he was qualifying his remarks, backtracking. The fury as a result is Kerry-esque in nature, with Obama's reaction similar. He's gone on vacation and stayed off the scene as the rage intensifies thinking it will all blow over without any lasting impact, which hardly matters, because all the anti Cordoba House energy has to do is fuel voters' emotions for the midterms to cause real damage to Democrats. Like Kerry, Obama's absence while the discussion burns makes him look out of touch, something that resonates, because people have soured on the promised "change" once offered, because what's being delivered is not what they want, especially on the economy.

People have been opining that what's happening on the Cordoba Mosque doesn't have political legs. But America's phobia about Islam is also rising up in middle America:

But when the community's leaders proposed a 52,900-square-foot Islamic center with a school and a swimming pool this year, the vehement backlash from their neighbors caught them by surprise. Opponents crowded county meetings and held a noisy protest in the town square that drew hundreds, some carrying signs such as "Keep Tennessee Terror Free."

[...] The Murfreesboro mosque is hundreds of miles from New York City and the national furor about whether an Islamic community center should be built near Ground Zero. But the intense feelings driving that debate have surfaced in communities from California to Florida in recent months, raising questions about whether public attitudes toward Muslims have shifted.

No event, the swiftboaters or the right-wing reactionaries, happens in a vacuum. The foundation of Pres. Obama's problems today are moored in something that happened over two years ago during the campaign, when Rev. Jeremiah Wright's anti-American rants were broadcast non-stop, solidifying Obama's haters' resolve, no matter how strongly Obama denounced Wright. Now, after 20 months of discontent, these same haters are simply conflating the alleged otherness of Obama's religious roots and resume with one of the most potent symbols in the 21st century, the murderous assault by fanatic terrorists, to funnel their rage about everything anti-Obama.

If the economy had a chance of turning maybe the anti Islamic center anger would dissipate, but it won't, at least not before November. Couple that with the feeling that the majority of Americans have about the health care bill, and what you've got is a toxic funnel through which American voters can pour their rage, all of it directed at Obama and the Democrats. Remember, it's about feelings and emotions, not facts, which won't fuel the midterms.

John Kerry made a fatal error in ignoring the swiftboaters one hot August election year.

Pres. Barack Obama is making the same error, which may not have long-term impact, because there are many other issues that are far more important. However, unlike Ronald Reagan who faced similar troubles looking at re-election, the economy is not only worse, but the political atmosphere is far more toxic today, with Reagan a Hollywood image out of the mainstream of America. That cannot be said for Pres. Obama, who even after making a courageous statement on the mosque he then walked it back, but also hasn't led, and is looking more and more out of touch by believing that he can let the fury simmer until September, hoping it will simply go away.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst and national political writer out of Washington, D.C.