"Run away! Run away!"
There are geniuses at work inside the Democratic Party who are convinced that the best way to get back inside the walls of the White House, and take back the majorities in both houses of Congress, is to build a Trojan Horse of a party.
The idea is that if a candidate talks in a vague, mushy, apologetic way sort of like a Republican, voters will mistake him or her for a Republican and vote them into office where their true Democratic warrior spirit will hop out and lay waste to the citadel.
The trouble is that they can't design and build a convincing horse.
They keep building a Trojan Rabbit.
And then forget to put the Democratic warriors inside.
Nobody's fooled and the Dems wind up having the damn thing catapulted back at them at which point they scatter in terror shouting "Run away! Run away!" and from the walls of the castle the Republicans make faces and mock them in bad French accents.
Obviously, I'm late getting the news that the Democrats are planning to have their response to Bush's State of the Union delivered by the guy who played Herb Tarlek, Jr. on WKRP in Cincinnatti.
Sorry. I mean Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
Probably you've seen Arianna Huffington's reaction to the news that Kaine has been tapped to take the fight to Bush. Kaine, as Huffington describes him, sounds like a perfect Trojan Rabbit:
Don't ask me why, but I actually watched Kaine's inaugural address on C-SPAN, and I was stunned to hear him dare compare the cause of Virginians like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to our cause in Iraq: "They stood here at a time, just as today, when Virginians serving freedom's cause sacrificed their lives so that democracy could prevail over tyranny."
Iraq as a war to ensure that democracy can prevail over tyranny is George Bush's talking point. God help us if it's also the talking point of the man the Democrats have chosen to respond to him after the State of the Union.
And during Kaine's run for Governor, he adopted another Bush talking point -- that it would send "a horrible message" to "cut and run" in Iraq.
What's Tim Kaine going to say when Bush's done?
But even if Kaine held views that allowed him to deliver a real and plausible Democratic reply to the President, assuming the Democrats would let him, what good will it do if the audience tunes out the moment he opens his mouth---assuming that they didn't switch channels the second his face appeared on the screen, thinking that somebody had goofed and in place of the Democratic response they were broadcasting an infomercial for the Fisherman's Friend instead?
Tim Kaine is the opposite of telegenic.
Has nobody in the Party's upper management heard that John Kennedy won his debates with Richard Nixon way back when because Kennedy came across better on TV?
Has anybody there heard of television?
You can lament all you want about TV's pernicious influences on politics. You can bemoan the fact that if Abraham Lincoln were alive and running for office today he couldn't get elected city councilman because he was too ugly for TV (You'd be wrong. Look again at all those Matthew Brady photographs. And Lincoln knew what sort of image building he was doing when he posed for them.) but that doesn't change the fact that to be elected to high office today you have to come across well on TV.
What's more, the ability to project yourself through television, to use the medium to deliver your message, to be a kind of celebrity are necessary skills for anyone who wants to lead the country in the 21st century.
One of these men is not like the other, tell me why. George McGovern, Fritz Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton.
I think even Clinton has forgotten that a lot of his success was due to his ability to pass as a TV star.
This isn't an argument that the Democrats need to start recruiting from the casting offices of Warner Brothers. It's just a wish that they would make an effort to understand how they come across on TV.
John Kerry's a funny looking guy, but he came across very well on TV. When he wore a suit.
When he was shown running around in his shirtsleeves trying to play at being a "regular guy" he showed off the fact that he has no shoulders and no waist. In a suit he looks like a President. Dressed down he looks like a scarecrow.
Nobody in his campaign noticed that?
Apparntly not. They were too busy trying to build a Trojan George Bush instead of a realistic image of John Kerry.
Kerry won the debates wearing a suit.
He lost the election wearing a wet suit.
Tim Kaine promises to be even less exciting television than last year's pairing of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
Democratic campaign strategists seem not to want to believe that the medium is the message. Which would be fine if they believed that their message was the message.
Instead all they have to say is "Run away! Run away!"
Tristero, filling in for Digby, has a suggestion for how to deal with the Democratic Party leadership's timidity.