E.J. Dionne thinks the Republicans overextended themselves and are vulnerable to a counterattack.

There’s an old Yiddish express that translates “From your mouth to God’s ear,” meaning roughtly “I hope what you predict will happen.”

So I say, “from E.J. Dionne’s word-processer to God’s browser”:

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com