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Shallow Throat to Dems: "Time to Go for the Jugular!"
April 22, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

When 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 gone down.

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 liberals.

"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 prize.

"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 of vipers.

"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 issues.

"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 Day."

"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 be ready."

"They better be," said Shallow Throat, heading for the door. "There is no going back and no-second chance. It's now or never."

* For three of these earlier "conversations" with Shallow Throat, see here, here and 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 The Crisis Papers.

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