I actually think the Kerry campaign is doing a decent job. They weathered the $50 million Bush ad storm until events on the ground made it ludicrous ("Hey, he wants to raise the gas tax!... um, what torture pictures?"). I think these theme weeks (education week, health care week) have a powerful effect, not nationally but in local papers, which could be even more important. Kerry's plan for teachers was big news here in LA because it was announced in the Inland Empire, just outside of the city. And I understand that he wants to get out among the people and do some retail campaigning. But it seems to me like this would be a good time to go back to Washington.
Republicans made a lot of hay this week by claiming, rightly, that Kerry missed
what would have been the tying vote on extending federal unemployment insurance benefits. And Kerry's kind of lame excuse was "they made it look like it was the deciding vote when it really wasn't." But the point is, you shouldn't put yourself in that position. You don't allow the opposition to make quotes like this:
"Last month, John Kerry was pushing for the extension of unemployment benefits. Today, he had the chance to actually vote on that question but was too busy playing politics when he would have made the difference in the Senate," said Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt.
"John Kerry's rhetoric on the campaign trail is hiding a long list of missed votes and empty promises on the issues he claims are priorities."
You just shouldn't leave yourself open to stuff like that. And furthermore, I'd say this is a good time to be a senator, if you want to get on the nightly news. Kerry is not on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who have been able to beat on Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz the last couple weeks, making stars out of Senators like Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island. However, these are Kerry's assignments:
Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation
Committee on Finance
Committee on Foreign Relations
Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
In addition, he's the ranking member on the Subcommittee for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Not that North Korea's a threat to us or anything).
Doesn't the Finance Committee meet on appropriations, like the latest call for an additional $25 billion for the war in Iraq? Doesn't the Foreign Relations Committee call hearings about foreign policy, not exactly a Bush strong suit at this time? And most important, wouldn't all Senators be able to question a prospective Secretary of Defense nominee during confirmation hearings, should Rumsfeld be forced out the door? With all the shit hitting the fan in Washington, don't you think a sitting Senator could make a lot of noise and garner a lot of publicity by doing his job? Plus, it would stand in stark contrast to our President, who takes every opportunity to go on vacation.
... I will give him this. After Thursday's campaign stop, Kerry did go back to Washington and did what every Senator has the right to do: viewed all the pictures of Abu Ghraib made available to Congress. He then delivered this withering attack
on, of all places, Fox News:
"This administration has made a grievous error in the laxity of command control," Kerry told the Fox News Channel in an interview. "And I am convinced this didn't happen just because six or seven people decided to make it happen in a prison. It happened as a matter of what was going on in terms of interrogation and the laxity of command up and down."
Kerry blamed Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for first casting doubt on the protections afforded prisoners by denying detainees from Afghanistan formal standing under the Geneva Conventions.
"I would never have thrown out the door or window, the obligations of the Geneva Conventions. Why? Because I know as a former combatant, that had I been captured, I would have wanted our moral high ground, with respect to those Geneva Conventions, to be in place," Kerry said.
"By being selective and saying they (the Geneva Conventions) apply here, then they don't apply here, and so forth, we invite others to be equally as selective and it puts American troops in greater danger."
...Thanks for listening to me, Senator! Um, that is, listening to me, before I wrote this...