In 2004, Bush turned a highly-decorated veteran into a complete coward. As disgusting as this charge was, it was effective. Bush made a mockery of all those who serve this country, especially those who serve with distinction. Yet the democrats were too slow and too weak to quickly deflect this charge and turn it on Bush. They needed to, in turn, label him, yet they didnt'. And the democrats lost.
This all seems to happening all over again. Barack Obama's main strength, inspiring people at home and abroad, and bringing millions of Americans off the sidelines and into the fray, is exactly what the republicans have used against him. This is their age-old tactic, yet amazingly, the Obama camp appears to have been blindsided.
On Thursday night, Barack Obama will speak before some 75,000 people on the 45th anniversary of perhaps the greatest speech in American history, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. But how will this night be remembered? There's little question that McCain's mafia will immediately roll out ads of Obama speaking before a sea of people, and once again, immediately mold the moment into a Coldplay concert.
How could the left have answered this repeated slam at the Obama camp? Well, they could have rolled out ads showing McCain speaking before empty VFW halls, and highlighting the positive fact that Obama is bringing out tens of thousands of people in city after city who want a change from the Bush policy. Howard Dean et al should've charged McCain with mocking these people. It could've quickly turned. I mean, imagine if Kerry responded to the Swift Boat ads by aligning himself with all veterans, and making it clear that Bush, Rove, etc. were mocking all those who serve this country. They were equating honor with weakness and disloyalty. Just imagine how quickly the right would've abandoned the one fabricated storyline that ultimately buried the Kerry campaign.
Unfortunately, Obama and the rest of the democratic party have little time to imagine. They need to not only respond to McCain's attacks, but they need to build on them. They need to take his ludicrous claims, collect them, build a response, and forcefully hit back. And hit back again. And begin to define John Mcain. Again. And again. If they don't, well, we all know the repercussions.