Changing the Subject

The other day I mentioned that candidates should answer their own questions, not the media’s questions. A benefit of doing this is, in addition to avoiding getting pinned with an answer you do not really support, you can change the subject. In a case like John Kerry and the Swifties, Kerry has been unable to change the story. Well, the story is about to get changed in a brilliant way – so brilliant in fact, I would speculate there was coordination, but for the fact that Kerry is the central reason.

For about three weeks now, Kerry has been hammered by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The poll numbers are starting to show a real impact. For three weeks Kerry has been unable to change the story. The hammer is about to drive the nail completely in.

With Kerry’s incompetence at changing the story, the Bush campaign has intervened to change the story for him. We will now be subjected to a weekend of pro-America Olympics recaps and transition directly into a one week George Bush love fest known as the Republican National Convention. Bush is changing the message for Kerry and it will be to Kerry’s detriment.

I would say this was coordinated – that the Swifties planned to drag this story out until Bush could change the subject. But, that is not actually what happened. While the Swifties planned to drag the story out and Bush planned to have a convention, the media planned to ignore the Swifties until Kerry opened his mouth. Once he opened his mouth, like Pandora, he couldn’t shut the story up again.

In the slow news month of August, when voters should be focused on the Olympics, they have instead focused on a group of 264 angry veterans. The veterans stole the August headlines better than Chandra Levy and Gary Condit ever could through tragedy and mystery. Now September has arrived with an opening season of Bush. By the time Kerry gets the chance to change the message, he will have been at least four weeks out of the drivers seat.

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Erick Erickson

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  • He could have spent it earlier, but spending money now on adds gives him more bang for his buck and here is why:

    The tone and content of the election has changed over the last few weeks because of the Swifties. While in the first few months of the election, the Kerry campaign was able to frame the content of the issues by putting the Bush Administration on the defensive on Iraq, the economy and his service.

    Kerry does best when he isn’t talking about himself, but now because of the Swifties, he has to. This helps the Bush Administration because they can tailor their message into two parts. The first one is positive message where he doesn’t even talk about Kerry and this makes Bush look like he is in charge. The second one talks about Kerry’s Senate record and his flip flops. This part reinforces the idea that Kerry isn’t forthright when he says things. And that is an idea supported by the Swiftboat messages.

    Kerry can’t respond to Bush because he is on the defense with the Swifties. Any attempt to attack Bush on Bush’s claims about his senate record becomes the political equivalent of Clinton attacking Iraq to avoid talking about Lewinsky.

    Bush had to hold onto his money until know because the Swiftboat ads were not guaranteed to make any difference. This story was sat on for more than 3 weeks by major media while it was incubated in the blogosphere. Had Bush spent all his money before now and had the Swiftboat story died from the get go, you would see him with nothing new to say, no way to frame the issues, and no momentum going into his convention. Which, considering how little bump is expected from the convention, is a dangerous place to be this close to the election.

  • The argument to your theory is:

    Bush was the only one spending his own money in August. If he even knew that the Swift Boat Vets would be taking all the air, why would he release so many ads at the same time? I know he has to spend his money, but couldn’t he have spent it earlier?