So, by the time he ran for president in 2004, Kerry was silent about his heroic investigations of the 1980s. He presented himself instead as a careful politician who spoke in a fog of nuance. Whenever he seemed poised to crush the bumbling George W. Bush, Kerry retreated into poll-tested platitudes.
As it turned out - as the younger Kerry would have understood - the greatest risk was to play it safe.
In life, you often don't get a second act. Except, of course, for Democratic "strategists," who always seem to get a second act, even a third and a fourth, no matter how often they lose. Strategist Bob Shrum, for instance, has been a chronic loser in presidential races but is still sought out by Democratic hopefuls, including John Kerry in 2004.
And, when they're not applying their cold hands to Democratic campaigns, the strategists can put a chill on any Democrat's principled behavior by whispering in the ears of journalists that a seemingly noble act is reckless, calculated or somehow both.
While Feingold's proposal could be viewed as a moderate step - expressing congressional disapproval short of impeachment - Washington Post reporter Charles Babington searched out unnamed "Democratic strategists" to make Feingold's plan look both craven and crazy.
The lesson for Democrats who want to stand and fight is that they must respond to this three-sided problem with a three-pronged solution: challenging Republican wrongdoing without fear or equivocation; building media outlets that will circumvent the smug mainstream press; and standing behind the rare Democratic politician who shows some courage.
Go read it.
Last night on The Daily Show there was a segment with Ed Helms interviewing Paul Hackett, who is "the rare Democratic politician who shows some courage" if there ever was one.
Helms also spoke to a 'Democratic strategist' who said pretty much what the 'strategist' in Fixer's post said: "Just stand back and let the Republicans screw up and we'll win".
Helms then said, and I paraphrase, "I know what you mean. I got robbed the other day. This bum was beatin' the crap out of me with a bottle. I didn't fight back because I knew eventually he'd hit himself with it and take himself out. Finally, he did. Even though I was beaten, battered, and bleeding, I felt I'd won."
Then, Helms played the 'strategist' to Hackett. Hackett was doing campaign commercials, telling the truth and standing on principle, and Helms would come in and get him to tone it down and in general remove all the substance so as not to be controversial and 'alienate' voters with facts. At one point Helms pointed at Hackett's Marine Corps Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem hanging on the wall and told him to "Oh, and lose that thing".
I think the skit illustrated the whole problem pretty well. If anybody's got a link to video of that, please let me know.
Thanks to the usual amazing in-depth research by Fixer, you can see the clip at Crooks and Liars. Enjoy.