Thursday, November 04, 2004

Delicious Dish

Here's a glimpse to some behind-the-scenes gossip of both campaigns.
In the biggest fight of his charmed life, John Kerry swung between bewilderment and anger when things didn't go his way on the campaign trial.
"I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot," the Massachusetts Democrat sighed to a staffer when President Bush's poll numbers surged in April.

"Why the f--- didn't he take it?" he wondered when Republican Sen. John McCain refused to be his running mate a half-dozen times.

"It's a pack of f---ing lies, what they're saying about me," he shouted at an adviser as a group of Swift boat veterans stepped up attacks on his Vietnam War record while his team refused to let him respond.

Those are some of the behind-the-scenes stories from the year-long race for the White House revealed in a special Newsweek report out today. The magazine says Kerry's courtship of McCain to be his vice presidential candidate was far more intense than the public realized.

It started in August 2003, but kicked into high gear after Kerry nailed the nomination. He even offered to expand the veep's role to control defense and foreign policy. "You're out of your mind," McCain told Kerry. "I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell."

Kerry seemed stunned that McCain rebuffed him "after what the Bush people did to him," referring to the 2000 GOP presidential primary.

Meanwhile, in the Bush camp, chief strategist Karl Rove was baffled that Kerry managed to snag the Democratic nomination.

By the fall of 2003, he was focused on the threat posed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, saying Kerry had "pissed away every advantage of the front-runner."

Rove started betting hamburgers with other White House staffers that Dean would win - and stuck to his guns even when the campaign flamed out after his screaming Iowa concession.

"Want to double your bets?" Bush needled his adviser, who insisted Dean still had the money to pull out a primary victory.

After it was clear Kerry would be Bush's challenger, the Republicans set about attacking him, hoping he would overreact - and got their wish.

An ad mocking Kerry for voting against the $87 billion appropriation was prepared as the Democrat headed to West Virginia to speak to a veterans' group.

That led a heckler to start hammering at Kerry's vote during his speech, and the candidate fell for the bait, infamously explaining he voted for the funds before voting against them.

"The second we saw it, we knew we had a new ad," Bush ad man Mark McKinnon gloated.

In another trap, W's team inserted into every speech the question whether Kerry, with the benefit of hindsight, would have supported the invasion of Iraq.

Again, Kerry fell into it, saying he still believed the decision to authorize force was the right one - allowing Bush to lampoon his answer. "We couldn't believe that he went for it," White House communications director Dan Bartlett told Time magazine.

The Bushies also were happy when Kerry referenced Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter during a debate, Newsweek reported.

Rove was certain Kerry was trying to undermine the Christian right's support of Bush, and just as certain the ploy would backfire, making Kerry look like a politician who would say anything to get elected.

Kerry, though, wouldn't go to any lengths for political gain. When Bill Clinton advised him to back laws banning gay marriage to pick up swing voters, he demurred, telling aides, "I'm not ever going to do that."

Setting traps and betting hamburgers... I love it!