Throat to Dems: "Time to Go for the Jugular!"
By Bernard Weiner, The
I got the coded call from Shallow Throat, I was worried. The
last few times we'd talked*, the highly-placed GOP mole in
the Bush Administration was extremely frightened, fearing
imminent discovery, so I thought something bad might have
We met in a half-deserted, dimly-lit tavern outside the
Beltway. The wig and shades were different, but the anger
was the same and it was directed at the usual target: timid
"I can't believe you guys!" he practically shouted. "Bush
is screwing up big time in so many areas - the 9/11 coverup,
the Iraq War, Israel and the Palestinians, the Plame case,
the environment, health care, education, the economy, tax
rates, and on an on - and your Dem friends simply watch in
horror, with their mouths wide open, and don't react with
any real passion.
"Bush&Co. are dazed, confused and floored, not knowing what
the hell to do, and you let him get up! At times, you even
seem to be helping him to his feet! Damn it, this isn't tiddlywinks.
Bush&Co. are playing full-contact, crush-your-opponent politics,
and too often you seem to be playing to win the good-sportsmanship
"You want to get rid of Bush and his kind from the White
House? Remember where the political jugular is located and
go for it!"
Shallow Throat was red-faced and breathing hard after this
tirade, and quickly chugged some beer.
"I couldn't agree more," I said. "But what brought this
on? What happened that made you call me?"
ST gave me a look of disbelief. "You ask me that after what's
happened since we last talked? Dick Clarke and Bob Woodward
spill the whole can of beans all over the Bush Administration,
Condi Rice lies and bobs and weaves her way through her testimony,
nobody even tries to lay a glove on Ashcroft, the FBI and
CIA are fingered to take the fall, Iraq is falling apart,
Bush pitiably embarrasses himself and our country at his press
conference - and your candidate and the rest of the Democrats
issue polite criticism.
"Even parts of the conglomerate-owned media machine are
starting to mention and question Bush's scandals and disastrous
policies. Why are you Democrats so timid? You should be wiping
the floor with these guys, not pretending that all this is
politics as usual.
"Bush&Co. don't play politics as usual - you've had nearly
four years to notice that! They play for keeps, and if you
think you've witnessed unprecedented corruption, mendacity,
greed and arrogance up until now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
If they get four more years, it's a forced march to a police-state
at home, more looting of the treasury for the fat cats, and
more 'benevolent hegemony' wars abroad. And the economy will
be in the toilet, flushed away so that social-service programs
for the middle-class and poor can be decimated even more,
while the wealthy and the corporations make out like bandits."
THE COURSE OF ACTION
"OK," I replied. "Supposing it's all as drastic as you say,
what to do?"
"Your Dem friends may choose to ignore what I say - because
if there were a decent, traditional Republican running, I
probably would be voting for him - but I hope they will be
more open-minded, remembering that I've been risking my job,
and maybe my life, revealing the inside workings of this nest
"Your friends have to realize that I'm voting and secretly
working for Kerry because the forces behind Cheney's sock-puppet
have hijacked my party and ripped it to the far extreme right-wing,
wrecking everything we traditional Republicans, who are suspicious
of unbridled federal authority, hold dear: support for small
government, budgetary restraint, no wars (and certainly no
"preventive" wars) unless our vital national interests are
imminently at stake, a firm wall between church and state,
and so on.
"So, as an outraged, desperate, angry Republican, here's
my answer to your question, a prescription for action. Take
what you find useful:
"First, get your heaviest liberal hitters to bring John
Kerry into a closed room and read him the riot act. If he
wants to win, if he wants to get Dems and Independents and
Libertarians and moderate Republicans like me to vote and
work for him and supply him with campaign dollars, he's got
to sharpen his attack, got to go for that jugular. Don't fudge
around, use the appropriate goddamn words: "lies," "deceit,"
"manipulation," "quagmire," "permanent war," "imperial foreign
policy," "sticking it to the middle class," "ruining the economy."
Don't pull punches, just tell the truth.
"To be able to fight like that requires him to shed the
albatross that was hung around his neck by Kerry himself,
and which is being used by the GOP to brand him. Kerry voted
for the blank-check that allowed Bush to go to war in Iraq,
he voted for the Patriot Act, he supports Sharon's bestial
policies in Palestine. Kerry has got to admit he made some
mistakes - something Bush is incapable of doing, but Kerry
can - about those positions.
"He has to go to the American people and say he is wiser
now than he was then; his votes were based on faulty information;
he, we all, got snookered by a lying Bush Administration to
convince and manipulate us into a war of choice, not one of
necessity. And he was caught up, as were we all, by the immediate
fear and desire to get the terrorists after 9/11, and voted
in haste for the Patriot Act.
"Kerry can at least sketch a way out of Iraq, before we
sink up to our eyeballs in that quagmire; if it involves handing
over control to the U.N., or kicking Chalabi and Halliburton
out of the way, or swallowing hard when Islamic nationalists
take control in a democratic election - well, that's part
of the road out of this morass. Kerry can promise that he
will take a good look at the Patriot Act and remove the worst
aspects. Just speaking up like that on those two issues alone
would make the distinction between himself and Bush all the
more clear, and would indicate a humility and willingness
to grow as a candidate.
"Bush has placed all his chips on Sharon's extremist policies
in Palestine (and even is imitating them in Iraq); Kerry can
vow to be more even-handed in the Middle East, realizing that
only more slaughter will take place - maybe even against the
U.S. - unless a candidate is elected that can be the honest
broker between the Israelis and Palestinians. Bush no longer
can be that broker, but a President Kerry, if he's capable
of altering his position, can. And Kerry can sell all this
to the Americans and Israels because it's in America's, and
Israel's, longterm national interests that the Middle East
move toward a just and lasting peace.
KERRY NEEDS MORE SAX APPEAL
"You're not pulling any punches here," I said. "What next?"
"Second, he should ask Bill Clinton for some tutoring on
campaigning and public-speaking. Loosen up. Get better writers.
Spend lots of time in televised, small town-hall meetings,
interacting in an intimate setting (rather than in large rallies)
one-on-one with ordinary citizens; I think Kerry could excel
in that arena. And, since Bush won't really debate, take some
of that money that's coming in and buy 15 minutes or a half-hour
on network TV to take on Bush directly on a number of key
"Kerry can be a give-'em-hell-Harry kind of candidate, a
straight shooter who tells it like it is. Even though currently
he gets off a good shot now and then, he doesn't seem relaxed,
doesn't smile as much as he should, seems somewhat awkward
and dull in delivery too often, as if he's trying to remember
what he's supposed to be saying rather than letting it flow
from his heart and gut.
"Third, he should hold a major press conference, make some
major announcements and then, for an hour, demonstrate how
at ease he is with answering pointed questions from the reporters,
how much knowledge he has at his fingertips, how 'presidential'
he looks when measured against Dubya Doofus, how relaxed and
self-deprecatingly funny he can be.
"Fourth, he needs to address the computer-voting issue head-on.
It won't matter if more citizens choose him on November 2nd
unless their votes are accurately recorded and tabulated.
His victory could be stolen unless the scandal of touch-screen
voting problems is dealt with. As Stalin said, what matters
is not who votes, but who counts the votes.
"Right now, the software inside those computer-voting machines
- which are owned and controlled by Republican companies -
can be manipulated easily, leaving no trace that they've been
tampered with. Most of the computer-voting machines have no
back-up system that allows for verified recounts. There are
alternative machines on the market that print out a paper
copy of the votes, require the voter to look at it and okay
it, then save it inside a locked box for any recounting that
may be necessary.
"Kerry needs to acknowledge the vital importance of this
issue, start talking it up, become the national advocate for
honest tabulation. Especially after the disputed 2000 vote,
we don't need another stolen-election controversy. That way
lies political civil war."
MADRID-TYPE BOMBING HERE?
"Stop, stop!" I said. "I can't take notes fast enough. Take
a breath, have another beer....What I'm hearing from you is
that you think the liberal-centrist Kerry is a strong candidate
who can take Bush in a fair election. Assuming the computer-voting
scandal can be addressed, can we even have a fair election,
with Karl Rove in charge?"
"You've put your finger on the right man," said Shallow
Throat. "The Rovemeister has a file full of dirty tricks he's
starting to activate, and Kerry and the Dems better be prepared
for those - and for various other surprises as we get closer
to the election, when undecided voters are more apt to be
paying attention to the campaign."
"Aside from Rove, what about an outside interference - say,
a terrorist attack in the U.S. before the vote," I asked,
"similar to the Madrid train bombings?"
"Look, Bin Laden's intentions couldn't be clearer," said
Shallow Throat. "He's willing to ease off Europe in order
to focus on America. A big one is coming, for sure. And he's
almost more eager to demonstrate that he can still pull one
off here because a Bush Administration official recently almost
dared him to do so, saying Al Qaida is so badly decimated
and in our preventive sights that the terrorists can't do
much major damage inside the U.S.
"The question is not whether but when, how big it will be,
and how the American citizenry will react when it happens.
Will they blame Bush for not protecting them, and will they
remember how he did nothing prior to 9/11 even when he knew
the 'spectacular' Big One was about to happen? Or will Americans,
in their fright, rally around the Administration in a time
of great travail and anxiety? And, most importantly, if the
Al Qaida attack is horrific - say, a suitcase dirty bomb going
off at a major port city, killing and radiating tens of thousands
- will they stand up and resist the calls for martial law
and the 'postponement' of the election?
DO DEMOCRATS HAVE THE CAJONES?
"If the Democrats have any sense, they will start talking
now about the terrorism that is likely to happen this Summer
or Fall, reminding voters of how incompetent the Bush Administration
was before and has been since 9/11, and how their reckless
policies in Iraq and the Middle East have made us more vulnerable
to terrorism, not less. But I'm not sure your Democrats are
smart enough to think along those lines, or have the guts
to take on Bush directly on these issues.
"In short, I'm not sure they really know how to win, or
maybe even want to win enough to go out and really claw and
fight their way to victory. But they simply have to if we're
going to have any opportunity to avoid the militarist, neo-fascist
society Bush&Co. have in mind for America after November 2,
and the permanent war the neo-cons want to continue abroad.
"This is our moment. There is no other chance to take these
guys down. If we don't do it in November, it may be a generation
or more before we get another reasonable shot. Kerry and the
Dems may understand that on an intellectual level, but they
need to translate that into unrelenting, tough, street-smart,
go-for-the-jugular campaign-activism from now until Election
"I hear you," I said. "I'll pass on what you have to say
to those who can hear it - Democrats (who, by the way, are
a lot more united and dedicated than you give them credit
for), Independents, Libertarians, moderates, disaffected Republicans,
veterans and families of soldiers abroad, loved ones of 9/11
victims, and so on. I think a wide swath of the American polity
is open now to a lot of your suggestions. The Democrats will
"They better be," said Shallow Throat, heading for the door.
"There is no going back and no-second chance. It's now or
* For three of these earlier "conversations" with Shallow
Throat, see here,
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government at various
universities, was a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle
for 19 years, and currently co-edits the progressive website