There’s an old Yiddish express that translates “From your mouth to God’s ear,” meaning roughtly “I hope what you predict will happen.”
If there is one thing that came through clearly to the broader public from last week’s convention, it is that Republicans were out to frighten the country about Kerry’s ability to lead in dangerous times. They were willing to say almost anything and were perfectly happy to distort Kerry’s record. Convention speakers were, by turn, sarcastic, ferocious and mean.
Kerry has pointed constantly to his Vietnam record to prove he is tough enough. That tactic is, it can now be said with some certainty, insufficient. Kerry, however, does have one great test before him in which he can show his steel. Voters are about to learn whether he is strong enough to stand up to President Bush and his surrogates.
If Kerry cannot effectively defend himself in a campaign, the country might well have reason to doubt his ability to defend the rest of us upon taking office. But if Kerry can face down a withering attack from Bush, the very act of campaigning becomes a way of passing the toughness test that Bush has put before him.
And there is a great advantage in politics to the candidate who is seen as fighting against attacks rather than launching them. “The other side,” says top Kerry strategist Tad Devine, “has opened the door so much for us that we are in a very strong position to counterpunch.” Devine’s comments suggest that Kerry’s campaign is about to get a lot more aggressive — and none too soon, in the eyes of worried Democrats.