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I remember a year ago I got bitched out by some friends for sending around a Michael Moore speech against the war because they were disappointed I was supporting his "simple polemics." The Republicans get away with saying "evil doers" and "weapons of mass destruction" 47 times in one speech while Democrats sit back arguing about the complexity of our foreign policy quagmire. Collmer is right, it's time to fight fire with fire.


Why do you want only to “respond” to the Republican Talking Points? These are issues set by the Republicans. To respond to them gives them legitimacy. If the Republican “message-machine” has been so effective with its twin pillars of Simplicity and Repetition, then responding to those messages is only going to ensure their further repetition and entrenchment in whatever collective psyche belongs to the all important independent and undecided voters.

Perhaps it would be more productive to put together “Progressive Points” or some such thing: issues and claims that demand a response from Conservatives and Republicans. For example, under Democratic administrations of the past 60 years, real wages and incomes for a majority of Americans rose faster than they did under Republican administrations. Or how about recasting the Democrats as the fiscally responsible party? These are realignments that require Conservative and Republican responses, and they demonstrate the inanity of the Republican Talking Points without deigning to answer them directly.

Last night I was discussing the claims made by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (see www.swiftvets.com), which contest Kerry’s war record and, more importantly, to contest his own statements, made to Congress and to the public at large, regarding the committal of war crimes by American soldiers in Vietnam. To quickly did this discussion turn to my defending Kerry’s integrity as an individual, to my need to rebut attacks leveled at his possible careerism, his self-promotion, his flip-flopping, etc. There was no where to go in this argument. Sure I could cite all of the information I knew regarding the $87b. Sure I could argue that a man could be proud of winning medals in Vietnam at the same time that he could criticize what he and others considered an unjust war and the tragedies occurring therein: all of Kerry’s activities, both during the war and after, were directed towards the preservation of American soldiers’ lives. But I was already on the defensive. I was in a position of standing up for a man and his character, neither of which I can safely say I know in the least. And this is what the Talking Points are designed to do.

What I could say, however, and what I really wanted to argue in the end, and did, was that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are attempting to turn back the clock on the history of the US involvement in Vietnam. These are individuals who are still holding onto the myth of a Just War, in which no atrocities occurred and any cries about war crimes must necessarily be “phony” (My Lai is an exception, not the rule, in their thinking). They deride the veterans who spoke out with Kerry in 1969 for not going “on the record,” full well knowing that any Vet who did risked forfeiting his benefits, a loss not easily weathered by those without Kerry’s means. (Remember that Seymour Hersh’s sources only came forward on Abu Ghraib once they realized they were pegged to take the fall.) Many narratives of the Vietnam war are candid about the tragedies that occurred there; and they don’t point fingers but to a systemic failure. (See Sheehan’s ‘Bright and Shining Lie’ or Halberstam’s ‘Best and the Brightest’) Those same narratives recount that what could only be called war crimes did indeed occur, but prosecuting the soldiers or units involved would be to lay blame at the feet of functionaries and not the wills that they served. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth might be peddling lies about Kerry, but that is difficult to prove one way or another. What is not difficult to prove, and what undercuts their entire platform, is the historical record on the Vietnam war, a record which does account for the gruesome events Kerry enumerated for the public upon his return to the US and which are anything but “phony.” Thus to accept the Swift Veterans for Truth’s claims is also to accept, even if only implicitly, their position on Vietnam, something I think many voters, in my generation (b. 1974) and others, will find difficult to hold. After that, the edifice won’t stand. “Next.”

In my opinion, what the Democrats need are points that undercut the Conservative and Republican positions as a whole. “Response points,” to my mind, leave that platform be. What you want are points that make Republicans—moderate and conservative alike (though the effective points will surely be different)—uncomfortable in their own skin.

Ben Geyerhahn

There is some low lying fruit on this list so here are responses to a few.

As to

3. Kerry has said he will roll back taxes on those making more than $200,000 per year, but will maintain tax cuts for the middle class, and perhaps reduce taxes further on the middle class by providing tax credits for college tuition and increasing the per child tax credit.

4. This is just unsupported. Most of the guys he served with consider him a hero. I think its also fair to say, where the hell was W during Vietnam? He couldn't even make it to his Guard assignment.

6. Ask anyone with school age children if they believe schools are adequately funded, and then remind them that this program was substantially underfunded to finance a war that was unnecessary.

7. The economy is not booming. Bush has still lost more jobs than he created, and the new jobs that have been created pay less than those that were lost. Additonally, these jobs often do not include health care benefits, and the cost of health care is skyrocketing further burdenning those fortunate enough to land one of these jobs.

8. Deficits increase interest rates which puts a burden on those with adjusted rate mortgages. The federal government's debt also draws money away from private investment stifling capital markets.

9. I think this needs to be handled by responding with specifics. When called to serve, John Kerry enlisted W enlisted in the National Guard, and then didn't show up.

10. The pictures from Abu Grhaib prison are a recruiting poster for Al Quaeda. Those would not exist if W hadn't decided to invade Iraq.

These are just a few. More to come.


I like this last one of Ben's.

Alex Collmer

Thanks for both Neil and Ben. I'll incorporate Ben's suggestions into the eventual "Points".

To Neil's original post, I agree with what you're saying about controlling the field of debate, however I do think that given the fact that many of these talking points are already so well ingrained in so many people's heads, we actually need both Response Points AND our own talking points. Good point, though. Simply responding to what's already been stated is the surest way to lose the communication war.

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