Kerry's FECless Explanation

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Interesting point from 2004 presidential loser Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: What was the biggest mistake you made, the most important lesson you learned from the presidential race?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, I can go down that road and we can spend a lot of time talking about it. I, I—let me just say this: I made some mistakes. I know what they are and I take responsibility for them. My campaign, I take responsibility. I think the most important thing would have been to spend more money, if we could have, on the, you know, advertising and responding to some of the attacks. But we…

MR. RUSSERT: The swift boat ads?

SEN. KERRY: Yeah, but we—people forget, we had a 13-week general election; they had an eight-week general election. We had the same pot of money. We had to harbor our resources in a different way, and we didn't have the same freedom. I think the biggest mistake was probably not going outside the federal financing so we could have controlled our own message.

So in the future, if you're running for president and your wife is a bazillionaire, you'll want to be more bold with your resources. Some of Kerry's claim still doesn't make sense: Wasn't it the job of other 527s like MoveOn, rather than of the campaign itself, to counter the negative campaigning of the Swift Boat Vets? And the issue of the scheduling of the conventions was more a stroke of genius by the Republicans than a mistake by the Democrats. It was the GOP that broke with tradition in moving its convention date way back, both to take advantage of the 9/11 anniversary and, as Kerry understands, to shorten the campaign cycle. Finally, there's the contrary evidence of opinion polls, wherein Kerry was actually closing the gap in September and October, which makes it harder to say that he was outgunned in the campaign advertising.

But I don't want to carp about a pretty encouraging development. In his roundabout, prolix way, Kerry is acknowledging the undemocratic constraints of campaign finance law. Usually such complaints come from obscure policy hermits and shut-out fourth-party candidates, but here it's coming from the presidential candidate of one of the two major parties. My hat, which has, lo, these many seasons become more firmly rooted about my ears, is lifted to John Kerry for mixing an important critique of campaign regulation in with his sour grapes. That having been said, I calculate the probability that he will vote his conscience on this matter when it's time to close the 527 "loophole" at precisely zero.

NEXT: Eric Pianka: Smear victim, eco-fanatic, or neither?

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  1. Kerry ran as Bush-Lite, instead of the Un-Bush.

  2. Some of Kerry’s claim still doesn’t make sense: Wasn’t it the job of other 527s like MoveOn, rather than of the campaign itself, to counter the negative campaigning of the Swift Boat Vets?

    Why on earth wouldn’t that be a job of the campaign? The job of a campaign is to promulgate the message, “vote for our guy!”. When someone else is spreading the conflicting message, “your guy sucks!”, it behooves the campaign, if it’s worth the money raised to fund it, to try to counter that attack.

    (Admittedly, Kerry actually took something like that tack, vanishing from the press for a month until he finally emerged on the Daily Show, but that was astonishingly ill-conceived.)

  3. I don’t know, Eric the .5b, getting into a “you suck!” “No, you suck!” argument doesn’t neccesarily look presidential. The people with the Soros money were probably in a better position to battle the Swift Boat Veterans.

    At least that is the conventional wisdom. One of the complaints speech-regulators have about groups like the Swift Boat Veterans is that they allow people like President Bush to stay above the mud but to benefit from its slinging.

  4. “Wasn’t it the job of other 527s like MoveOn, rather than of the campaign itself, to counter the negative campaigning of the Swift Boat Vets?”

    The question assumes that Moveon was an appendage of the Kerry campaign, in the same way that the Swift Boat Vets were an appendage of the Bush campaign, and could be similarly assigned jobs.

    “Finally, there’s the contrary evidence of opinion polls, wherein Kerry was actually closing the gap in September and October, which makes it harder to say that he was outgunned in the campaign advertising.” Huh? Because Kerry was tightening the race, he couldn’t have been outgunned in paid media?

  5. OF course he could have made his full military record public with the stroke of a pen. If everything the Swift Boat Vets were saying was spins and lies, surely that would have put an end to that attack.

    I don’t know how he could have overcome the “I actually voted for the $87 Billion before I voted against it” problem.

  6. I don’t know, Eric the .5b, getting into a “you suck!” “No, you suck!” argument doesn’t neccesarily look presidential.

    Neither is a concession speech, by definition. 😉

  7. I don’t know about that, Eric…

  8. RUSSERT: Mr. Frazier, is there anything about your fight against Mr. Ali that you regret?

    FRAZIER: Yeah, Tim, I should have hit the motherfucker a lot harder…

  9. Has the thought ever occurred to you that the reason Kerry couldn’t respond to the Swift Boat Vets is because the SBV’s were right? Seems to me that Kerry could have easily ended the discussion if he had released his records, but he wouldn’t do it. Do you really believe that Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve?

  10. “OF course he could have made his full military record public with the stroke of a pen. If everything the Swift Boat Vets were saying was spins and lies, surely that would have put an end to that attack.”

    Surely. After all, people with a such a deep respect for the truth *cough cough* and an inability to weave dark tales out of harmless facts certainly wouldn’t have been able to keep up the fight.

    “Do you really believe that Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve?” His journal entry, written that evening, describes going up the river into Cambodia earlier that afternoon to drop some people off, and getting shot at. It doesn’t make any sense that he’d lie in his diary about something that there wasn’t even a political debate about until years later.

  11. I don’t know about that, Eric…

    Graceful and dignified? Maybe. Presidential? No.

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