Blogs > Cliopatria > The Story Kerry Must Tell

Sep 1, 2004 3:22 pm


The Story Kerry Must Tell



Ralph, Jon, Tim and others have pointed out the skilled dishonesty of the Republican convention. Note that their skill is being used to create a narrative of the impact of 9/11. They are indeed writing a history, that will allow people to see themselves as part of a great success.

That also indicates the greatest weakness of the Kerry campaign to date.

Kerry and Co. have critiqued the president and suggested policy changes. That is all well and good. But to defeat Bush, Kerry must provide more. He must counter the Republican’s dishonest narrative with the real one: The one as Ralph notes below, of the squandering of good will and of wealth. If Kerry does not do this, he will fail. He will fail because his ideas will not fit with the narrative that people have learned.

The best time to tell the story would have been his acceptance speech, He alluded to the real story, but he never told it.

Luckily, Kerry still has the debates. When we get to them, here is how I hope he starts his opening comments.

“We remember 9/11. The shock and the terror. We also remember the unity that we all felt with our flag, our country. All of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, praised President Bush for his leadership when he spoke to the nation. We were one.

And we were also at one with our allies, who were ready then to join us in a fight against Al Qaeda.

Yet look at us today. Our great nation has rarely been more divided. We invaded Afghanistan, but Al Qaeda is reforming there. We overthrew Saddam Hussein, but we are now bogged down in a war with no clear purpose, and therefore no clear way to either triump or leave. Many of our allies now reject our leadership, leaving us more and more alone in the world.

And why? Because President Bush’s leadership failed. What we first saw as strength turned out to be rigidity. What seemed to be vision turned out to be illusions: Illusions fed to him by intellectuals who thought that transferring democracy to Iraq would be a snap. It has not been a snap, as the families of the dead can attest.”

That would be the start of the true story, the one he must tell.

Postscript: Politics is like history. The analytical works often get it right. But it's the narratives, good or bad, that sell.

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