Republicans ridiculed Democrat John Kerry’s primary campaign contortions about the war on Iraq on Tuesday and handed out pictures of Kerry clad in a hooded blue anti-contamination suit as he climbed out of a NASA space shuttle orbiter.
The GOP effort to pull a “Dukakis” on Kerry is shifting into high gear.
In 1988, Republicans were able to turn Michael Dukakis from a Democratic presidential front-runner into a caricature soundly beaten by President Bush’s father.
Key elements of that transformation were a constant drumbeat of criticism of Dukakis’ alleged “liberal record” as governor of Massachusetts and a photo of Dukakis riding in a tank while wearing a helmet. At the time, Republican strategists for Bush’s father compared the governor in the tank helmet to “Rocky the Flying Squirrel.”
Asked the significance of the photo of Kerry in the anti-contamination suit, Republican chairman Ed Gillespie smiled broadly and said, “We just thought it was a great photo.”
Republicans gathered at the GOP war room on Tuesday tried to pick apart a suggestion by former President Clinton that Kerry has the “strength and wisdom” to keep America safe.
“Part of wisdom is having a vision and being consistent with that vision,” said Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. “With Senator Kerry, we have seven different positions on his vote against the 87 billion dollars for Iraq.
“At one point he said it would be irresponsible to vote against it, at another point in time he voted against it, then he said he voted for it before he voted against it, now he says he’s proud he voted against it.”
Coleman noted that liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, director of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” had a seat of honor at the Democratic convention.
“We had Michael Moore in the presidential box, someone who said Americans are stupid,” Coleman said. “Michael Moore sits with President Jimmy Carter in his box. Is that the foreign policy coming out of this convention? Does that demonstrate the party’s commitment to make tough decisions?”
While Republicans praised Clinton’s speech Monday night, they turned on the Democrats Tuesday and claimed they were making false statements about the Bush White House record. The Republicans said Democrats are exaggerating the threats to Social Security, Medicare and a federal program that put extra police on the streets.
“You can say these things with a smile on your face, sound like you have a positive message,” said Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, adding that statements distorting Bush’s record are “still a falsehood.”
Republicans say Clinton’s successful Monday night speech will make things harder for Kerry on Thursday when he accepts the nomination.
“It’s going to be difficult for Kerry to wrest control of these folks from the thrall of Bill Clinton,” said veteran GOP strategist Rich Galen.