The Washington Times

There are two possibilities: Either the Kerry campaign actually believes that the Bush campaign is behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; or the Kerry campaign just thinks it’s good politics to blame President Bush personally for the Vietnam veterans who served in proximity to Mr. Kerry and have decided he is “unfit” to be commander in chief. The question, then, is which of these two views is the dumber?

I don’t know too many Republicans who are especially fond of George Soros, for example, or of Michael Moore. Mr. Soros has his vast personal fortune, and Mr. Moore his propagandist’s gifts. Each of the two seems to think that George W. Bush is a force for evil in the world – paradoxically, in both cases, in part because they think Mr. Bush sees the world in overly simplistic terms of good versus evil. And each is willing to devote considerable energy to Mr. Bush’s defeat.

But do Republicans think there is some vast, left-wing conspiracy aimed at them? A conspiracy in the sense of carefully coordinated activity in which each apparently separate part is in fact centrally directed and controlled? In which Mr. Soros and Mr. Moore, rather than being merely well-connected ideologues with an ax to grind and a constitutional right to do so, acting in accordance with those rights and the law of the land in pursuit of their aims, are in fact intelligible not as individual actors but only as cogs in a bigger apparatus whose aim is the destruction of the Bush administration through the victory of John Kerry?

Well, maybe some do. But, and this is the essential point, the Bush campaign has not organized itself around the central conviction that such a conspiracy exists. The Bush campaign does not apparently have in mind that its top priority ought to be to expose the conspiracy so that the people, having learned the truth, will repudiate the conspirators in all their ugliness. And yet, from the other side, just such thinking seems to be the collective wisdom of the Kerry campaign at the present moment.

But a Republican donor from Texas funded the Swift Boat organization! Wow. Imagine that, a well-heeled donor wanting to provide resources to people whom he believes have a case to make that will damage the opposition politically. Can you imagine such a thing? In America, no less? Could we perhaps take a minute to have a look through Mr. Soros’ stack of cancelled checks?

But the Swift Boat Veterans funder is from Texas! Mr. Bush wrote him a letter! If that’s not proof of coordination, what is? Well, proof of coordination would be proof of coordination, and this is not that. The other day, a Kerry spokesman said that Mr. Bush shouldn’t have spent the minutes after learning about the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center reading “My Pet Goat.” That’s proof that she is deeply steeped in the worldview of Michael Moore (because Mr. Moore is responsible for that precise misreporting of the title of what Mr. Bush was reading, actually an exercise from the book “Reading Mastery 2” called “The Pet Goat”). But it’s not proof that Mr. Moore is in on the Kerry campaign.

Did Mr. Kerry, or the Kerry campaign, really think that nobody was going to use the audio about American war crimes from his congressional testimony against him? Is he somehow under the delusion that because he went to Vietnam, Vietnam veterans will support him (or at least shut up) quite regardless of what he said when he got home? Did he miss the part of the subsequent decades in which the rest of us learned that one of the things certain (pardon my French) pour pisser a certain sort of Vietnam veteran was being called a war criminal?

Does he really think that it would take the evil genius of Karl Rove to think to use it against him? Well, maybe so. In which case, good luck figuring out the rest of the world (which both he and we will need if he wins). But perhaps the view is merely cynical, that the attempt to encourage a blowback reaction against the Bush campaign is the most effective response whether you believe the coordination charge or not? Well, we’ll see. But it seems to me that the Bush campaign ought to be able to fight that charge to at least a draw, which essentially leaves us with the substance largely unaddressed.

Look, I’m voting for Mr. Bush. This should come as no surprise. But I don’t think John Kerry is “unfit” to be commander in chief (though I don’t think his Vietnam service somehow means he’d be good at the job, either). If everybody who said something stupid or even vicious in his privileged youth were written out of politics, where would we be?

It’s the man who is running whom we have to consider. Surely there is some way for Mr. Kerry to make this point. Unless this whole thing is just much too personal for him.