How Kerry can win the debate on terror and Iraq.

Politics and policy.
Sept. 24 2004 6:19 PM

Democratic Leadership Counsel

How Kerry can win the debate on terror and Iraq.

(Continued from Page 1)

6. Quantify the Iraq "diversion." You're right to fault Bush for spending in Iraq resources needed to fight more direct threats to us. But this is a very hot charge. People don't want to believe it, and it will backfire if it looks rhetorical. Every sentence you utter on this point should consist of quantifiable facts. Good examples from today's speech: 1) "The Bush administration is spending more in Iraq in four days than they've spent protecting our ports for all of the last three years." 2) "The CIA unit charged with finding Bin Laden has fewer experienced case officers today than it had before 9/11." 3) "More [Soviet nuclear] materials were secured in the two years before 9/11 than in the two years after." 4) "There were more terrorist attacks in the world last year than the year before." 5) "We hear the secretary of defense himself wondering whether the radicals are recruiting, training, and deploying more terrorists than we're capturing or killing."

7. Talk about Afghanistan. This is one of the best things you did today. Bush says we have to stay the course in Iraq because our enemies there are terrorists and we have to finish the job. You pointed out that terrorists in uncontrolled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan pose a clearer threat to us and that we haven't finished that job. You called Afghanistan "still the front line in the war on terror." This assertion is true, enormously important, and politically powerful. Every time Bush makes a point about Iraq, you should apply that point to Afghanistan. When he says Saddam harbored terrorists, remind him that Afghanistan is still harboring terrorists, many of whom are part of the group that attacked us on 9/11. When he says we have to finish the job, remind him that Iraq is the reason he failed to finish the job (in Afghanistan) that mattered most to our security.

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8. Turn the Republicans' scare tactic against them. Cheney, Hastert, and other Republicans are suggesting there will be more terrorist attacks if you're president. Hold them to that standard: Bush is president, and terror attacks are increasing. You noted that attacks are up, but you seem reluctant to press the point. Antiterrorism policy should be accountable and measurable just like economic policy. This is the measurement.

9. Come up with a good Saddam line. Bush says you think we'd be safer with Saddam in power than in jail. Your reply today—"George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority; I would have made Osama Bin Laden the priority"—is accurate but lame. You'll need a zippier version in next week's debate. Something like, "If I were president, Osama Bin Laden would be in jail."

10. Tone down the suck-up to women. These lines in your opening remarks reeked of poll-driven calculation: "This is not just a political or military struggle. It goes to the very heart of what we value most: our families. It strikes at the bond between a mother and child. … No American mother should have to lie awake at night worrying whether her children will be safe." Please, find a subtler pick-up line.

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